February 17, 2018 • By W. Gerald Cochran
Hickory – The Tesla Quartet presented their third concert of the season in the Drendel Auditorium of the Catawba Valley Arts and Science Center Saturday with a concert featuring works old and new and in between. The concert opened with a transcription of four madrigals by Don Carlo Gesualdo (1560-1613) arranged by Ross Snyder, one of the violinists in the Tesla Quartet. Gesualdo is best known for his madrigals, which are secular songs for multiple voice parts, and were very common in the Renaissance. Gesualdo’s music was very experimental for his era, and many of his harmonies were centuries before their time. The four played at this concert share a theme of darkness and despair.
The fourth madrigal played – Sospirava il mio core – became the foundation for the next work performed, “Portrait of Gesualdo,” String Quartet No. 4 by Matthias Pintscher (born 1971). Pintscher is a German composer and conductor, currently living in New York. To the “classical” ear, his works are very modern, and this quartet is no exception. It consists of many sounds, some musical and some not, in varying tempos and rhythms, with a melodic phrase, a quotation from the original madrigal, inserted every now and then. On the whole, while this quartet may have been an aural assault to some, there were many in the audience who liked the piece, and certainly, everyone appreciated the difficulty of the composition and the work and energy that were required to play it. In that, the Tesla Quartet performed stunningly.
The program concluded with the String Quartet in D by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936). Respighi was an Italian composer who is probably best known for his tone poems about Rome, and who has an extensive catalog of other compositions. The quartet is in the traditional form of four movements. It is based on romantic themes, and was a pleasant conclusion for the concert. Of course, it, too, was played with lush beauty by the members of the Tesla Quartet.
As an encore, they played the first movement of String Quartet No. 4 by Hugo Kauder (1888-1972). Kauder was an Austrian composer who spent some time in 1945 at Black Mountain College in Black Mountain, NC. Although composed in 1927 in Vienna, it was first presented at the college in 1945. This was a very enjoyable and lovely movement, with hints of fiddle music here and there, and played with expertise and zeal. The Tesla Quartet will be presenting the entire work at the Black Mountain Museum and Arts Center in Asheville on February 23rd.