Tag Archives: Chamber Music

The Borromeo Quartet Showcases a New Side of the Old

By Chloe Lindeman, Co-Editor-in-Chief

You might expect a group that reads its music on sleek laptop computers to favor contemporary music over classical sonatas. And although the Borromeo Quartet featured the works of three classic composers in its concert at Haverford College on Friday, Nov. 11, the music was hardly business as usual.

Violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong, violist Mai Motobuchi and cellist Yeesun Kim,  each having had experiences playing  with some of the world’s greatest musicians, came together on stage  for a night of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.

Of the three quartets performed, Haydn’s String Quartet No. 2 in F major was the most traditional. As the opening piece, it gave listeners a chance to acquaint themselves with the group. The first violin and cello carried the melody line, yet the whole group was actively engaged throughout. Kitchen and Tong were placed opposite each other, in a relatively uncommon arrangement for string quartets today, giving the audience a clear view of both violinists’ emotive body language as they played.

The group was not afraid of silence. Throughout the concert, they took full advantage of pauses in the music, refusing to rush forward into the next theme.

Mozart’s String Quartet No. 19 in C major, aptly named “Dissonance,” brought to light a side of the composer you’ve likely never heard. Although certain parts conformed more closely to the classical master’s style, there was always the promise of a deviation to unexpected material. Rather than shying away from these surprising moments, the Borromeo Quartet dug in and emphasized Mozart’s use of new ideas.

The final piece, Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp minor, had some forward-thinking themes of its own. From the first movement, a dark fugue, to the final, racing allegro, the Borromeo maintained the high intensity of the piece. The quartet was written just a year before Beethoven’s death and is considered one of his most mature works.

One of the group’s strengths lay in the skillful interplay between parts. Though trading of melodies was at times limited to the first violin and the cello, in other instances Beethoven made sure each of the instruments was on equal footing, and the Borromeo Quartet allowed each of its members to shine.

The group’s dynamic range was also striking. From fortissimos fortified by the excitement of the players, to pianissimos softer than most quartets would dare to play, the quartet ventured to the extremes, and the result was a treat for the audience.