Boston Artists Ensemble warms up a snowy Sunday with Haydn and Mozart

January 8, 2024 at 2:03 pm

By Katherine Horgan

Music of Haydn and Mozart was performed by Boston Artists Ensemble Sunday in Brookline.

Those who braved the snow on Sunday for the Boston Artists Ensemble’s concert at St. Paul’s Church in Brookline were richly rewarded with a masterful performance. Titled, “Genius of Vienna,” Sunday’s program immersed the audience in string quartets of Haydn and Mozart, offering an illuminating interpretation of the genre’s founding fathers.  

Even as the juxtaposition of master and student (Haydn was friend and mentor to the young Mozart) highlighted the deep sympathy between these composers, the players’ sensitive interpretation presented a study in contrasts between the cerebral, lucid Haydn, and the visceral, luxurious Mozart.

Yet the true draw of Sunday’s performance turned out to be the superb performers themselves. Tatiana Dimitriades, Jonathan Miller, William Hudgins, and Rebecca Glitter—all long-time members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra—performed in an intimate space where their virtuosity, as well as their generous ensemble playing could be precisely appreciated. Joining these artists was violinist Kristopher Tong, whose beautiful tone and musicality lent panache to the group’s performance of both composers.

The program opened with Haydn’s String Quartet in C major  Op. 20, no. 2. The Opus 20 quartets mark the beginning of Haydn’s renovation of the genre with his formal innovations and vivacious charm. Tong’s playing captured both the intellect and pleasure of these works as he led the sprightly Moderato, during which the ensemble coalesced. Cellist and BAE founder Jonathan Miller delivered a charming melody in the second movement Adagio, a feat later repeated by Tong. The piece culminated in a thrilling fugue, in which the joy of the players was palpable as they traced the intricacies of the thematic material.

Following this most archetypical of Haydn quartets, Mozart’s Quartet No. 14. in G major seemed a real departure from the work of his mentor. Where Haydn’s quartets focus on thematic development, the melodic delicacy of Mozart’s aesthetic shone in contrast.

Violinist Tatiana Dimitriades’ rich sound and confident leadership heightened the luxuriant pleasure of the opening harmonies of the Allegro vivace—a brilliant contrast to Haydn’s fugue that had faded moments before. The middle voices in the quartet were manifest here, with violist Rebecca Glitter providing almost choral depth of tone. The Andante cantabile was true song; if Haydn’s quartets are famous for their conversation, Sunday’s performance showed its audience just how Mozart’s quartets sing.

The program culminated in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major. Here,  BSO principal William Hudgins offered a lovely performance; his clear sound blended well with the strings, while also cutting through the quartet’s timbral homogeneity to showcase a different set of tonal pleasures. Hudgins’ virtuosity was on fine display in the Larghetto and his technical prowess lent charm and variety to the fourth movement variations, which, in the hands of less able players risk becoming tiresome.

Boston Artists Ensemble performs Fauré’s Piano Trio in D minor, and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time March 15 and 17. Boston Artists Ensemble.

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