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The Hausmann Quartet has arrived from San Francisco for a two-week residency, and started off with the fourth concert of the Western Piedmont Symphony’s Chamber Classics Series in the Arts and Science Center Auditorium to a large and enthusiastic audience.
The Hausmann Quartet (Isaac Allen and Bram Goldstein, violins, Angela Choong, viola, and Yuan Zhang, cello) is the third group to audition for the position of String Quartet in Residence of the Western Piedmont Symphony. The group was founded in 2004 and presently hold the Morrison Fellowship Award in residency with the Alexander Quartet at San Francisco State University. Prior to this appointment, they were at Kent State University as teaching assistants to the Miami String Quartet, their tenure there overlapping with our old friends, the La Catrina Quartet.
The program opened with String Quartet in F, Op. 50, No. 5 by Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809). This quartet is in the usual four movements, which Haydn had set as the standard for the genre, and is nicknamed the “Dream Quartet” because its second movement is “like dreams rising up from a sleeping soul.” The Hausmanns played the opening and closing fast movements with briskness and clarity; they danced breezily through the minuet of the third movement, and got the dreamy second movement just right, with lushness and warmth.
Completing the first half of the concert was Alexander Zemlinsky’s (1871-1942) String Quartet, Op. 19, No. 3. Zemlinsky was an important figure in the musical scene of Vienna, his home town. His work was influenced early on by Brahms, and later by Wagner and Arnold Schoenberg, his friend and, for a time, counterpoint student. However, he eschewed Schoenberg’s extreme dissonance and atonality and the 12-tone system that he developed. His third quartet, while somewhat dissonant, is yet romantic, especially in the third movement “Romanza.” The first movement is a rather dark allegretto, the second a light set of wide ranging variations on a theme, and the finale is a humorous “Burleske.” The Hausmann Quartet really warmed up to this piece, giving it their all and presenting a performance that, while not necessarily easy to listen to, drew gasps of delight and approval, as well as applause, from the audience at its conclusion.
The fourteen string quartets of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) stand as the finest of the medium between Beethoven and Shostakovich, and the String Quartet in A-flat, Op. 105, which concluded this program, is no exception. It opens with a short slow section that quickly bursts into an allegro. The second movement is a fast scherzo resembling a furiant, a Czech dance. The magnificent slow movement is a lovely folk melody, and is followed by a spirited finale. Once again, our guest quartet was right on the mark, bringing out every note, theme, and phrase with distinct clarity and the richness for which Dvořák is so famous.
The Hausmann Quartet is the third to audition in this “Battle of the Bows” series. They are a mature ensemble, obviously in step with one another, well meshed, and, good friends, all important attributes in a musical ensemble. They appear to have a wide range of musical interests, and would certainly make a wonderful addition to the Western Piedmont Symphony family. There is one more audition to go, and I am glad that I do not have to make the final choice of which quartet comes to Hickory.