It was not only the gripping program that made this one of the chamber music events of the year. The prize-winning quartet inhabited the music in an extraordinary way, achieving their expressive ends through superb individual and corporate means and the most scrupulous ensemble precision.
Few chamber groups could have generated such excitement throughout a modern music program as Antares did Tuesday at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater.
Another group of similar constitution — Tashi, whose members included Peter Serkin and Richard Stoltzman — has come and gone, leaving some impressive footsteps for Antares to follow. If it’s as good as it sounded at its debut concert at LACMA last week, that shouldn’t be a problem.
…the youthful chamber group demonstrated powerful virtuosity and striking, razor-sharp ensemble in a program of mostly 20th Century works….their stellar technique, enthusiasm, and commitment carried the day.
On Antares debut album, Eclipse
The New England-based ensemble have two things going for them: their instrumentation and a fearlessly irrepressible energy. Both traits serve them well here. One would be hard pressed to find a better piece than John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango for bursting out of the starting gate.
“The best thing about this collection is the group itself. Antares have the gift of making whatever they are playing seem the most important piece in the world. And as long as they keep playing, I’m tempted to believe them.
Birthed by an intersection of adversity and necessity, the instrumentation of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time–clarinet, violin, cello and piano–has provided a valuable model for a small ensemble that affords color, flexibility and heft in one tiny package. Antares…invaluable dedication to living composers has garnered well deserved acclaim.
Eclipse, Antares’ debut recording, compiles six scores from the group’s contemporary repertoire. The picturesue, substantial title selection [is] by George Tsontakis…. The disc opens with John Mackey’s Breakdown Tango, a vivacious calling card…. James Matheson’s Buzz swoops and tumbles like a songbird coasting on a summer breeze. Stefan Freund’s Dodecaphunphrolic might be the cuddliest 12-tone miniature you’ll ever encounter. Carter Pann’s unrepentantly songful Antares, which frames four tiny concertos (one for each member) between two gracious team efforts, closes a thoroughly winning compilation.
…Antares’ stunning musicianship is neither flashy nor condescending. Eclipse is alive in a way that few albums of any kind are, and any attempt to hem it within a genre boundary does it a disservice.”
“The second movement of the multi-part “Eclipse” will be instantly accessible to fans of Canadian post-rock, as the agitation of the strings, woodwind and piano build in intensity to numerous orgasmic highs. As a special bonus, it culminates with a full-on Rachmaninoff-style chord-heavy piano assault. Other delights follow, including the playful “Dodecaphunphrolic” and the amazing, multi-part “Antares” suite. Yeah, they play music they commissioned that’s named after them. Truly bad ass.
[Antares] a vibrant young chamber music group from New Haven, opened the Albright College Concert Series Friday night in the college’s Meridian Theatre.
Their program of Romantic and contemporary music turned out to be exactly the musical meal needed to chase away the doldrums of the past month: enough fresh, new sounds to be mildly challenging, mixed with enough beautiful melodies to satisfy those seeking a little tenderness.
The ensemble itself – a marriage of a piano trio (pianist Eric Huebner, violinist Vesselin Gellev and cellist Rebecca Patterson) with clarinet (Garrick Zoeter) – has a blend of sounds that is perhaps one of the most pleasing to the ear of any chamber group, and lends itself to a variety of combinations.
The players, all superbly trained at Juilliard, Eastman, and Yale, played with a high degree of drama and commitment. Zoeter, in particular…can make his instrument sound at times like an oboe, at other times almost like a stringed instrument, always with a fine sense of nuance.
They opened with the delightful Suite 157b for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano by Darius Milhaud, which was full of wonderful writing for these three instruments with never a dull moment, and played with just the right touch of frivolity and lyricism…
In stark contrast, they played Brahms’ Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, for clarinet, cello and piano, written for clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld in the summer of 1891. Written in Brahms’ most autumnal style, the piece skillfully intertwines all three instruments, giving each equal weight….
The second half of the program featured Quartet No. 1 by Walter Rabl, a younger contemporary of Brahms who dedicated the piece to the older compose; Brahms selected it as a winner in a competition featuring quartets including wind instruments.
This big, open-hearted piece, while obviously inspired by Brahms, was no mere imitation. Using brighter colors, the composer set forth a very romantic opening theme, with a lovely, nocturnal counter theme by the clarinet over a cello drone….They played the piece with love and skill.
“Dodecaphunphrolic” (1997) by Stephan Freund, was rhythmically interesting, brilliant, even demonic, with many challenges, which the ensemble met handily.
The last piece, “Dementia” (2000) was written by John Mackey for a dance by the Parsons Dance Company. The opening section, which returned at the end, used fast, repeated notes on the violin, hinting at fiddle music: the writing is percussive for all the instruments with a primal feeling.
The middle section was a tango, dark and a little sleazy, with a passionate violin cadenza and swoops on the clarinet. You could practically see the dance that went with the piece: the group lulled off this difficult piece with drama and great panache.