Belcea String Quartet shares its crystalline sound at Union

The Belcea String Quartet returned to the International Festival of Chamber Music Thursday night at

SCHENECTADY — The Belcea String Quartet returned to the International Festival of Chamber Music Thursday night at Union College’s Memorial Chapel in their fifth appearance on the series.

Violinists Corina Belcea and Axel Schacher, violist Krzysztof Chorzelski and cellist Antoine Lederlin played a program of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert with an exquisite, crystalline quality of sound that was light and unforced. Their deluxe level of attention to detail produced immaculate phrases where even a wave of vibrato or slight change in articulation was under their watchful eyes and ears.

What was especially interesting was their concept of dynamics. Most of time they were in the barely whispers to medium levels. Playing loudly seemed almost like a last resort or a composer’s demand for nothing less. Since they started from such a soft point, they could take more time to find more volume. Surprisingly, only in the Schubert did they really play out.

They began with Mozart’s last Quartet in F Major (1790). Everything was sculpted. Their tone was mellow, balanced and very refined. The music was catchy and usually charming. The second movement was delicate and intimate; the third was boisterous and lyrical; the fast finale was very polished with interactive smooth streams of many notes like little spiders chasing each other.

Beethoven’s early Quartet in D Major, Op. 18, No.3 of about 1800 showed how skilled he already was with this form. The four movements danced with offbeat moments, key shifts, tuneful melodies, and sunny harmonies. Belcea played with exceptional clarity and great energy. The large crowd applauded loudly.

Schubert’s Quartet in A minor (“Rosamunde”) of 1824 was full of subtlety, romance, drama, and mystery. Nothing was left to chance. Belcea knew when to play sweetly, when to push those questing motifs, and when to just sparkle.

The next concert is pianist and Gilmore Prize winner Rafal Blechacz on Oct. 26 in a program sure to knock your socks off: Bach, Beethoven and Chopin.

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