Manhattan String Quartet Plays Annual CORE Concert

Leah Robinson

This Friday, November 1 from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., the Manhattan String Quartet performed in the Colgate Memorial Chapel. A bi-annual tradition funded by the Colgate Core Curriculum, the quartet’s show was carefully structured to teach students and members of the Colgate community about the development of classical music in the modern era. CORE 152, known as Challenges of Modernity, looks to artists, musicians and writers to gage the way in which society has viewed and reacted to the events and movements of the modern era.

Modernity, however, is getting old. Anton Webern’s “5 Pieces of a Spring Quartet,” which was performed by Curits Mocomber, Calvin Wiersma, John Dexter and Chris Finckel, is 104 years old. As explained in the presentation that pre-empted the concert, Webern wished to use his talent to diverge from the tradition of decadence that characterized Vienna’s music in the later Romantic period.

Beginning with the third movement, the quartet’s rendition displayed the delicate, whimsical nature of Webern’s style, while also revealing the fearful undertones of his piece. The sweet melodies are intermixed with crescendos that mysteriously build up to nothing and non-linear sounds that interrupt the rhythm of the movement. While the cello had an underpinning repetition that hooked the listener, other instruments created an odd discord that forced the audience to work harder in order to appreciate and try to make sense of the performance. Webern contrasted the fourth movement with the third by making the fourth movement nearly inaudible in its quiet notes and melodies. Pointing out the important role that silence plays in music, Webern successfully expanded the boundaries of what music had previously been understood to be. Indeed, the Viennese composer’s rejection of tonality – the necessity of having chords within music – can be seen within 21st century musical trends, which accept noise as well as harmony as viable types of music. While Webern’s “5 Pieces of a Spring Quartet” was met with much criticism, the extreme individuality that the composer’s music reveals is still impressive and appreciated by all.

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