By Lawrence Budmen 

In his tragically short life Franz Schubert (1797-1828) composed some of the most beautiful music ever written. His "String Quintet in C Major," D.956 (from his last year) is one of the high water marks of the chamber music repertoire. This score adds a second cello to the standard string quartet configuration. It was played at one the final Schubertiades - the intimate series of salon concerts performed by Schubert and the members of his artistic circle. The work's second movement Adagio is one of the most heavenly inspirations ever to flow from Schubert's pen. A divinely inspired reading of that glorious music was at the heart of a wonderful performance by the award winning cellist Andres Diaz and the resident Amernet String Quartet at FIU Festival 2004 on November 10 at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center Concert Hall.

The Chilean born Diaz was First Prize winner of the 1986 Namburg International Cello Competition (New York). The distinguished cellists Laurence Lesser and Colin Carr were among his teachers. He is former Associate Professor of Cello at Boston University and Co-Director of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Quartet Program. Diaz is a co-founder of the Diaz String Trio (along with Roberto Diaz, principal viola of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Andres Cardenas, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony and director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra). Diaz plays a truly glorious instrument - a 1698 Gofriller Cello. 

The Adagio of the Schubert Quintet is an otherworldly feast of creative inspiration. Diaz and his colleagues (Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley De Arias, violins; Michael Klotz, viola; and Javier Arias, cello) gave a rapt, deeply intense performance of this movement. The players brought a marvelous serenity to the music that was interrupted by the smoldering outbursts of the emotional central episode. The music making approached sublimity! In the opening Allegro ma non troppo, the musicians brought idiomatic Viennesse lilt to their shaping and phrasing of the thematic material. Cellist Diaz played with expressive warmth that blended splendidly with the Amernet's superb ensemble work. The Scherzo Presto was vivaciously realized. The Old World charm of the trio section was played con amore. The concluding Allegretto had tremendous passion and drama. The players' brilliant, riveting coda concluded an extraordinary performance of an angelic masterwork! Artistry on the highest level! 

By contrast Luigi Boccherini's "String Quintet in C Major" is light, airy entertainment music. What a delightful sweet musical soufflé! Boccherini produces an endless stream of inspired melodies and felicitous instrumental writing. A rousing Menuetto, a quasi-operatic slow movement, and a spirited quintessentially Italianate finale are high points of this wonderful string divertissement. Diaz (with his rich, glowing cello tone) and the Amernet players brought vigor and brio to this irresistible bon-bon. In this dedicated, musically intelligent performance, Boccherini's salon work was transformed into a minor masterpiece! A rarely heard musical sweet presented with protean artistry! 

The Amernet Quartet opened the concert with a high energy, athletic account of Schubert's "Quartettsatz in C Minor," D.703. From the very first bars, violinist Vitenson played with bracing virtuosity. The group's aural balance and attention to subtleties of dynamics and phrasing was astonishing! Every inner voice had perfect clarity. Musical lines that get obscured in less scrupulous performances were a joy to hear. A superb performance of an endearing vignette by a master of the chamber music genre!

Performances of the Schubert String Quintet are exceedingly rare. When performed with the elegance and idiomatic Romantic flair and affinity of cellist Andres Diaz and the Amernet players, that rarest of artistic events occurred - a moment of musical transcendence! An evening of heavenly music making! 

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All material copyright protected - Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, Florida USA

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