As the (mostly – keep reading) sibling quartet moves into their second decade together now, they’re doing it with some big changes.
Or, at least one big one: this past April it was announced that first violinist Timothy Ying was leaving the ensemble for more time with family and new business ventures in Canada. Replacing his role meant finding just the right player to fill the musical void and complement the sound of the group. Given the intimate nature of quartets, it’s always a challenging situation for an ensemble to endure. Add to this particular situation the fact that it wasn’t just a first violinist who had to be replaced, but one of the four original members of the group…who also happened to be a brother to the remaining three members.
Big shoes? Sure. And Violinist Frank Huang is just the person to fill them – quickly! His first public appearance with the Ying Quartet was a mere three weeks ago, at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. Last night he fit in seamlessly in a diverse program of Haydn, Dvorak and a delightful set of short Chinese classics.
It was just right that the rain began as the program’s first half closed. The last sounds of Chen Yi’s Shuo were accompanied by the soft pattering of raindrops on the deck just beyond the room’s open doors. It felt like a recital taking place in the artfully designed acoustic of a Zen water garden.
Going into the night’s concert, I was most looking forward to the Dvorak “American” Quartet. David Ying’s gorgeous cello solo was a highlight of the second movement, luxurious and roundly warm. A little less satisfying, but still thrilling, was the exceptionally peppy finale. The vivace non troppo of Dvorak’s score was instead more of a prestissimo, as the famous steam engine ‘locomotive’ rhythm at the opening of the 4th movement came across a lot more like the Eurorail breaknecking through the countryside. Sleek, all the moving parts working together, but a little fast for comfort.
Coming out of the concert, I had to give the best of show to the perfectly crafted, delicate yet sumptuously substantial collection of Chinese classics.
At last I understand why the Ying’s newest recording of these little self-contained treasures is called Dim Sum.
Performances with the Vemont Mozart Festival continue through August 9th at various locations in the region.
HAYDN Quartet in B-Flat, Op. 33/#4
TAN DUN: Drum and Gong; Cloudiness; Red Sona
ZHOU LONG: Song of the Ch’in
CHEN YI: Shuo
DVORAK: “American” Quartet in F, Op. 96