Scherzo...which means joke

Mark Kanny, of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, offered up this short review of the Orion String Quartet.

Orion quartet shines in chamber opener

Vitality sang...

Curious personification...

Vitality sang with many accents...

I'm not sure that's really a compliment, since we typically associate singing with lyricism and not so much with "many accents"...but, whatever...

Vitality sang with many accents Monday night when the Orion String Quartet opened the season of the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society at Carnegie Music Hall in Oakland.

Puzzling personification aside, good opening sentence. There's a who, what, where, when, all packed into a short, concise sentence. I hope you'll expound on that vitality comment, though.

In addition to classical and romantic repertoire, the program featured the world premiere of "A Tribute for Two" by Pittsburgh native Eugene Phillips, which proved to be a rewarding composition.

Nice little aside -- because, at first, I was quite worried about being taxed when you first mentioned a world premiere.

Graph 1: We just don't tax vices like we use to.

The premiere had a sweet charm because the violinists of the quartet, Daniel and Todd Phillips, are the sons of the 90-year-old composer.

That is sweet. I'm kind of surprised we didn't get some hackneyed "family affair" cliché crammed into the headline for this review. Oh well...

An exquisite performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's String Quartet in G major, K. 387, opened the concert with great allure.

Good thing the performance was alluring...I was just about to get up and leave, but I was allured--enticed even--to stay.

Plus, isn't adding "great allure" a bit redundant? The exquisite performance was alluring? Seems rather obvious, no? Yes, exquisite and allure mean different things, but why compliment the performance twice...once at the start of the sentence and once again at the end. I just don't like that construction. Don't worry about it, though, I'm sure it's just me.

But...we had started so well. Short and concise. Good information, and now this unfortunate wordiness...

The quartet, led by Todd Phillips, gave a performance of Mozartean refinement and songfulness.

Wait...the Mozart was Mozartean?

figure insekt: The nightmarish narrative in the Metamorphosis sure is Kafkaesque.

Also...songfulness? I know that dictionary.com says it's a word, but admit it...that sounds made up.

Soft passages were genuinely soft, and while there was ample dynamic range, the music never shouted.

Ah...there you go. Back to your concise, unadorned critique. Well said.

Phillips' "A Tribute for Two," written eight decades after his first composition, was a three-movement response to the passing of two friends. The first movement was shrewdly drawn, full of muscularity in an uneasy context.

Now, I haven't heard the piece, but what is "an uneasy context"? Did you have to listen to the piece while discussing the "birds and the bees" with a curious 6 year old, or did you perhaps accidentally run over the composer's cat? Or perhaps it was like eating at Taco Bell?

The heart of the piece is the slow movement, which didn't dawdle at the "Andante con moto" tempo.

"Didn't dawdle"? I actually think that's what the "con moto" means.

Nor did it wallow in grief.

Once again, I direct you to the meaning of "con moto"...and actually, I think you misunderstand "andante" as well.

It was a beautiful evocation of two personalities, with inspired music for transitions.

Whoa...I do love a good tempo analysis, but this seems like the meat and potatoes of the piece. What does it mean "two personalities"? How were they evoked? What were the emotions of each? Did they seem representative of the deceased?

And "inspired music for transitions"? Transitions between the two personalities?

...such a short sentence and so many questions.

The finale, called Scherzo, which means joke, was lively, witty and brief.

Okay, it shouldn't bother me, but..."called Scherzo". It just seems so 5th grade book report. Might I suggest: entitled, or titled, named, designated...hell, even christened, dubbed, or consecrated would have been more interesting.

Also, more to the point, while scherzo does originate from an Italian word meaning "joke", you should know that in this context the word scherzo has more connotations as a formal movement than as an evocative title. It's a lively movement (traditionally speaking) that was used to replace the obligatory, and often boring minuet movement. It's more of a perfunctory title....m'kay?

Phillips' new piece was so interesting, I wished it were longer.

Bassist Timothy Cobb, who was a fully integrated member of the ensemble in the Phillips,...

And here I was, like an idiot, thinking the Phillips was a string quartet.

Thanks for leaving me hanging, Mr. Kanny.

....[Cobb] also joined the quartet after intermission for Antonin Dvorak's String Quintet in G, Op. 77. It was performed in five movements, with the "Intermezzo: Notturno" that is often omitted and also is played separately sometimes.

lol! (as the kiddies would say). Nice sentence construction. /sarcasm

Daniel Phillips took the first chair for the Dvorak. He is a player of exceptional depth...

I guess unlike his brother...?

...who led a performance fully in touch with Dvorak's emotional world. The "Notturno" was so beautiful, one wondered how it could ever be omitted, while the "Poco Andante" fourth movement was heavenly.

hmmm...interesting idea juxtaposing the beauty of the omitted movement with one performed...

Nor did the performance slight the physical exuberance of Dvorak's personality.

The end.

figure 3: Kind of short on examples today, but I found this photo while searching Kafka. It is very fun to look at.