Two quartets, 16 hands
Wednesday, Jan 29, 2014 06:00 am
Characterized by youthful energy, seasoned experience, invigorating playing and soulful interpretations, the Vaughan String Quartet is quickly earning a glowing reputation.
Formed in Edmonton almost one year ago and named in honour of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, the quartet has already performed 14 recitals, a testament to their skill and dedication to the craft.
Once again this state-of-the-art ensemble share their consummate gifts as featured performers of the St. Albert Chamber Music Series on Saturday, Feb. 1 at Don’s Piano Showroom.
Opening the evening is Kamara Quartet, an all-woman ensemble that includes St. Albert’s own Julia Dolman.
Two couples, a Brazilian and an Italian, formed Vaughan String Quartet after bumping into each other at a recital. Their vision, musicianship, interpretive sensitivities and personal chemistry have blended into a powerful collaboration that has yet to reach its pinnacle.
Vladimir Rufino (violin) and his wife Fabiola Amorin (viola), Mattia Berrini (violin) and his wife Silvia Buttiglione (cello), are international musicians with an enviable range of degrees from conservatories and universities.
And they have performed on the world’s most scintillating stages from Milan and Munich to Rio de Janeiro and Los Angeles.
As local chamber musicians, the ensemble focuses on a wide variety of styles from traditional quartet repertoire to more contemporary ethno-background music.
“What stands out is our relationship. We started as two couples, but now we are a family. We have discussions like a big Latin family but in the end we are happy. And that reflects on the way we communicate during performances,” chuckles Rufino, the ensemble spokesperson.
With whole-hearted enthusiasm, the quartet has spent the last two months polishing their St. Albert chamber repertoire with works reflecting Joseph Haydn, Heitor Villa-Lobos, Robert Rival and Antonin Dvorak.
“We do standard repertoire as well as the great masters. Our intention is to do music others don’t play,” Rufino explains.
The fanfare starts with Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major Op. 54 No. 1, a work Rufino describes as beautiful but “pretty straightforward in form and keys. The last movement goes back and forth as if it is a conversation between instruments.”
The quartet then jumps from the 18th century to Heitor Villa-Lobos’ 20th century six-movement String Quartet No. 1.
“Each movement has a different character. At the time he wrote it, he was travelling around Brazil. He wrote what he saw. He was deliberately collecting different cultural movements in Brazil and he was the first national composer.”
The collective has also taken a fancy to Canadian composer Robert Rival who composed Traces of a Silent Landscape, a piece that describes the country’s cold, wintry beauty.
Dvorak’s String Quartet in F Major No. 12, Op. 96 “American” is the closing piece, a work the composer penned during his stay in the United States.
“It’s an expression of American society. While he was in America he was also able to get in touch with indigenous people similar to Villa-Lobos.”
Rufino adds that their upcoming concert on Saturday is special.
“This is one of our strongest programs so far. We have played one year together and we are confident of how we sound together. We know it’s an important concert and we are happy with what we can present to the audience.”
Julia Dolman of Kamara Quartet, an emerging ensemble, echoes those sentiments. Kamara Quartet was formed in the summer of 2006 under the leadership of Dolman and her sister Leslie now studying opera in New York.
Over the years, Kamara has witnessed a revolving door of musicians in part due to musicians moving to other cities or choosing to focus on different music.
Even Dolman, a professional cellist, spent two years at the University of Toronto earning a master’s degree in musicology before returning to St. Albert. Professionally she is employed at the Winspear Centre in patron development.
To date, the all-woman quartet, also composed of Marie Krejcar (violin), Amy Kao (violin) and Kirsten Sanders (viola), has performed at corporate events, weddings, ladies teas and the St. Albert Farmers’ Market.
“We were thrilled to get an attentive audience,” laughs Dolman.
Kamara’s main focus is popular music and classic rock. Their selections for the evening include Astor Piazzolla’s sizzling tango Rio Sena as well as Blackbird, a Lennon-McCartney chart.
“Rio Sena means River Seine. He wrote it after he was studying in Paris. We were looking for a fun piece. It has a nice dancey feeling. You get a gypsy feeling from it and it gives the violinist a chance to milk it for what it’s worth.”
As for Blackbird, “It’s quite mellow and we thought it would be a good contrast.”
Both quartets, although different, have one thing in common. They speak of performance with loving sophistication and an attention to balance and expression. But more than that, they work to create a warm, intimate environment that makes music just that little bit more enticing.