The Bach Festival Society of Winter Park presented the Parker Quartet on Sunday afternoon, showcasing the young musicians’ superb technical mastery and astounding group interplay. The gifted ensemble emerged from the New England Conservatory of Music and in 2011 scored a Grammy for its remarkable chamber music proficiency.
Propelled by the brilliant acoustics of Tiedtke Concert Hall, the Parker launched into the symmetrical elegance of Joseph Haydn, the father of the string quartet. The polished style of the group rises from a combination of the individual skills of the performers and their integrated group work.
Cellist Kee-Hyun Kim, perhaps the most dazzling performer in the group, smoothly harmonized the bouncy melodies of Haydn’s Quartet in D Major, Op. 76, No. 5, as if cushioning the violins under a soft plush. When trading melodies with the higher strings, as in the fast-paced finale, he articulated his lines with a dynamic precision that allows the low register of the instrument to blend in comfortably with the viola and violins.
Impressively subtle were the perfectly synchronized swells and accents, sometimes giving off a sense of resolution, like in the last few measures of the Haydn, or adding tension, like in Prokofiev’s Quartet No. 2 in F Major, Op. 92.
In the middle register was viola player Jessica Bodner, reaching up and down the opposite ends of the wide range of the quartet, while never getting lost in the mix. Her pizzicato accompaniment, about halfway through the Prokofiev, together with second violin Ying Xue, was precise, yet delicate, over which Daniel Chong’s lively violin gamboled.
Prokofiev’s highly progressive piece gives ample room for details in execution, which were fully embraced by the group. Kim’s high-register lines were sweet and lush in the second movement, while the loud unisons were discordantly dark, very characteristic of the composer’s symphonies.
To round off the program, the Parker Quartet gave a lively reading of Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 44, No. 3. The longest work in the program, it is composed of four diverse movements and alternating tempo markings. Chong took the leading melody for much of the first movement, cuing in the others with very subtle body language.
The melodic material of Mendelssohn’s highly expressive language unfolded like a tapestry, made up of threads of different length and thickness, which the quartet spun organically. Kim again provided emphasis to the harmonic backdrop throughout, with subtle hints of the central melodies.
Chong showed impressive finger work during the brisk finale, marked con fuoco (with fire, or ‘in a fiery manner’). The group held together throughout, keeping up with the relentless pace, and ebbing down together for a few moments of respite, only to pick up the pace again.
Easily one of the best ensembles invited by the Bach Festival, the Parker Quartet seriously rivaled the performance by the Miró Quartet of almost a year prior.
To visit the website of the Parker Quartet, click here.
To learn more about the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park and purchase tickets to future events, click here.
To read a review of the performance at Tiedtke Hall by the Miró Quartet, click here.