The Arianna String Quartet

Fontana Chamber Arts Summer Festival Calendar

Crybaby Concert: Ropes and stuffed animals

Saturday July 14, 2012 | 11h00 | Epic Theater, Downtown Kalamazoo

Intimate letters

Saturday July 14, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. | Kalamazoo Natural Center

A tribute to Neill

Tuesday July 17th, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. | Kalamazoo Natural Center


Saturday July 20, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. | Wellspring Theater, downtown Kalamazoo

Crybaby Concert: Jazz & Jumpers

Saturday July 21, 2011 | 11h00 | Epic Theater, Downtown Kalamazoo

London call

Tuesday July 24, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. | Kalamazoo Natural Center

Crybaby Concert: Brass & Bibs

Saturday July 28, 2012 | 11h00 | Epic Theater, Downtown Kalamazoo

Festival finale

Saturday July 28, 2012 | 7:30 p.m. | Kalamazoo Natural Center


A busy audience at the Kalamazoo Nature Center auditorium hosted Thursday night’s launch by


The Arianna String Quartet, currently in residence at the University of Missouri-St. Louis – composed of violinists John McGrosso and Julia Sakharova, violist Joanna Mendoza and cellist Kurt Baldwin. Each one testified to a nice timbre and a refined musicality.

Playing with their characteristic verve, the group performed two contrasting works by famous composers not particularly known as giants of the string quartet repertoire. However, heard live, in “prisoner-free” mode as here, the quartets of Tchaikovsky and Debussy aroused inordinate interest and pleasure.

The opening was Debussy’s astonishing String Quartet in G minor, op. 10 (1893) – his only work in this genre. Players were clearly inspired by the fresh music of Debussy, freeing up Debussy’s individual voice to be heard at its best. The cascading notes remained in the foreground near the beginning, capturing the intoxicating momentum of the passionate score.

The crisp plucked strings stood out in the second movement, with McGrosso’s main melody keenly declaring on the accompanying pizzicatos. The best blend of the evening was heard in the third movement, when luscious harmonies seemed to rise like an alloy mist. Here, too intense a passion was expressed by the magical harmonization of different instrumental combinations.

Debussy found his truest voice in the final movement. There, players broke away from a ladder-like format, breaking free-fall through a myriad of keys, but bound by no tonic keys. The effect was uplifting and liberating. The enthusiastic reactions of the audience validated the success of the group’s performance.

Of Tchaikovsky’s three string quartets, the last, No. 3 in E flat minor, op. 30 (1876), left the deepest mark. Although the composer was not experimental, he showed no fear of dissonance at the start of the third movement – the best performed section of all to my ears.

By playing with mutes, the instrumentalists localized Tchaikovsky’s Russian tonal language. The cello established a steady rhythm as beautiful Russo echoes filtered through the melodies above.

The third movement, “Andante funebre”, turned out to be an alluring, melodically and harmonious climax, proving to be the most glorious of all. Elsewhere, Tchaikovsky’s play might seem a bit weary, pointed out by urgent McGrosso, both literally and figuratively. Yet the brilliance of the work has never been obscured.

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