Distinguished Work from the Miró Quartet and Ricardo Morales Still Raises an Interpretative Doubt

United StatesUnited States Haydn, Ginastera, and Mozart: Miró Quartet, Ricardo Morales (clarinet), Perelman Theater, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, 16.3.2016. (BJ)

Haydn: String Quartet in D major, Op. 20 No. 4, Hob.III:34
Ginastera: String Quartet No. 1, Op. 20
Mozart: Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 581

In prospect, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, for which the Miró Quartet would be joined by the redoubtable principal clarinetist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, looked likely to provide the artistic peak to an evening of distinguished music-making. In the event, I am not entirely sure that this Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert worked out quite that way.

Certainly Ricardo Morales lived up to his reputation as one of the orchestra world’s outstanding exponents of his instrument, and the Miró Quartet played as beautifully in the program’s great concluding work as it had all evening. But I find myself in two minds on the interpretative front. Was the extreme fleetness of the clarinet’s response to the quartet’s statement of the first movement’s main theme simply a corroboration of Morales’s delightfully liquid tone and quicksilver articulation? Or did it betray a certain waywardness of thought, understandable at the outset of a performance? It’s suggestive of the latter alternative that the repeat of the exposition was made with a much more sympathetic sense of stability and repose.

It would have been interesting to hear whether the development and recapitulation would benefit from a similar settling down when they came around again, but the players chose not to observe this second repeat. The Larghetto second movement, however, was given with due gravity and grace, the minuet with its two sharply contrasting trios had all the necessary rhythmic zest, and the variation finale ended the evening with suitable elegance and, indeed, variety of mood as well as of melody.

All’s well, one may say, that ends well. Despite the doubt I have expressed, the sheer loveliness of Morales’s sound remains vivid in my memory. And the Miró Quartet—violinists Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violist John Largess, and cellist Joshua Gindele—now in its 22nd year of activity and quartet in residence at the University of Texas in Austin, played the relatively unfamiliar but inexhaustibly inventive Haydn quartet that opened the program, and the lithe and harmonically pungent Ginastera work that constituted its centerpiece, with suave tone and admirably just textural balance.

Bernard Jacobson

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