The Abramyan String Quartet (Gerald Elias and Lynette Stewart, violins; Scott Lewis, viola; and John Eckstein, cello) played its first concert Sunday in Libby Gardner Concert Hall, which will become its new permanent home. For the occasion, the quartet premiered a new work by U. composer Henry Wolking, written especially for the Abramyan and the grand opening of Gardner Hall.
Wolking's "The Old Gypsy" is a melodic and invigorating piece. The four movements of this piece are distinct and different, both stylistically and thematically.
The first movement, "Fanfare Fantasy," is a lively and vivacious movement that uses a simple fanfare motif as its base.
"Valse and Jazz Lullaby," the second movement, is lugubrious with a jazzy touch to it. At times, a waltz rhythm is discernible through the movement's heavy fabric of sound.
The third movement, "Four Episodes," is a frantic piece that incorporates passages of atonality within the overall tonal harmonic framework.
The finale, "The Old Gypsy," is built on a Hungarian folk tune, and Wolking uses this melody, or fragments of it, freely throughout the movement.
The only other work on Sunday's program was Beethoven's Quartet in B flat major, op. 130, which the Abramyan played with the original "Grosse Fuge" finale.
The four musicians played the Beethoven work magnificently. Their interpretation was imbued with power and passion, and in their hands, it became a very personal statement. They brought out all of the work's intensity and emotions in a performance that was quite simply electrifying and stupendous.