TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
- ​symphonic, choral, opera, chamber, jazz and period music​ -

Last night at the intimate performance space in the Burdock Brewery, the Eybler Quartet released its latest CD, Beethoven String Quartets Op.18, Nos. 4,5 and 6. In the informal performance space that resembled a sound studio usually associated with amplified groups, the quartet performed music from its latest album and provided a bonus of some unexpected music from two current projects. 


The quartet, known for its remarkable performances and recordings of lesser known composers from the first century of string quartets, is far more than its historically informed practice might indicate. Its passion, energy and vitality jumped from the instruments and filled the room. Sitting five feet from first violinists, alternately Aisslinn Nosky and Julia Wedman, I was drawn into the overwhelming envelopment of the music. Together with violist Patrick Jordan and cellist Margaret Gay, this ensemble is truly a Canadian treasure. The music sparkled with dynamism.​

The concert began with a performance of Cris Derksen’s. White Man’s Cattle. Derksen is half-Cree and half-Mennonite, a cellist and composer whose works span both cultures. With driving rhythms and plaintive melodies, the work seeks to make a non-indigenous audience think about the land they are on. One can viscerally feel the stampeding cattle driving the buffalo from the prairies. Derksen, from northern Alberta, has seen first-hand the effects of the white immigrants taking over the land in the twentieth century. The Eybler Quartet with its emphasis on 18th and 19th century music was struck by the importance of Derksen’s music while on faculty at the Banff Centre in its Evolution of the String Quartet program. The work was commissioned last summer and is part of what will be a trilogy. This piece represents a new direction for the Eybler Quartet which will return to the Banff Centre again in July 2019. Is there more to come? You can hear parts of the work in a documentary produced at the Banff Centre.

Eybler Quartet violinist Julia Wedman; Photo credit: David Kennedy

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 19th 2019

Composer Cris Derksen; Photo credit: David Richards

Last night we heard two of the movements from Op. 18, No. 5. The Theme and Variations third movement was full of wit and contrast, moving from quick variations to adagios and back to rollicking street music. The quartet was magnificent in bringing out the range of musical expression. The fourth movement finale was full measure for the commedia dell’arte potboiler.

The performance ended with a reprise of the opening work, White Man’s Cattle by Cris Derksen. The audience reacted with unreserved appreciation for the music and the message.

The official CD release date for Beethoven String Quartets Op. 18 nos. 4-6 is June 7th, 2019. It will be available at thesixteenshop.com and at most music download sites. A hardcopy of the CD is worth the price if only for the liner notes by Patrick Jordan. 

Eybler Quartet violinist Aisslinn Nosky; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Eybler Quartet cellist Margaret Gay; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Eybler Quartet releases its latest CD and gives glimpses of new projects in an intimate concert!

Eybler Quartet violist Patrick Jordan; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Before getting to the new album, the reason for last night’s performance, the Quartet introduced yet another new project, perhaps its next CD. Franz Asplmayr lived from 1728 -1786 and was known to both Haydn and Mozart. According to Keith Horner, “In 1759 he started serving in the Imperial court. He started as a secretary and violinist and eventually took over the duties of Christoph Willibald Gluck, the ballet composer for the Kärntnertortheater.” His music has the delightful Rococo elements of graceful charm. The Quartet performed his String Quartet Op. 2, No. 6, a work that has never been recorded. There was plenty of virtuosity in the first violin parts. I was particularly smitten with the third movement, a slow lyrical movement of surprising beauty and emotional sincerity.

The Beethoven Quartets Op. 18 Nos 4-6 are familiar to anyone who loves the string quartet repertoire, but not the way the Eybler Quartet performs them. When Beethoven was introduced to the metronome, a newly invented instrument for precisely indicating tempo, he went back to some of his earlier compositions and gave them metronome indications. In many cases, these tempos are much faster than has become the custom and almost impossible to play for most ensembles. The Eybler Quartet has now recorded all six of the Op. 18 Quartets at Beethoven’s tempos. The results are astounding. They jump with excitement and energy. The prestissimo’s are indeed just that. 

The Eybler Quartet; Photo credit: David Kennedy