Around the Island

SIFM season ends with a world-class performance

The 2009 season of concerts presented by the Shelter Island Friends of Music came to a dazzling conclusion on Sunday night before a full house at the Shelter Island Presbyterian Church. The Carducci String Quartet, based in the U.K., launched its American tour here on the Island before traveling to a week of concerts and master classes at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. This prestigious chamber group played a program of two familiar quartets and a piece by a composer virtually unknown in North America. 

The program opened with a joyful account of Haydn’s “Joke” Quartet. The ease with which the Carducci Strings performed this 18th-century work belied the difficulty of the music. The playing of the Largo movement demonstrated how the truly great chamber groups “breathe” together to create the unity of sound that the composer intended. The “joke” in the title is not apparent until the piece concludes with five hilarious false endings. 

The novelty on the program was a quartet by the English composer Ernest Moeran, written early in the 20th century. Based on English and Irish folk tunes, it is a beautifully crafted work, lovingly performed by these four immensely talented instrumentalists.

The concert ended with the third of the three Beethoven “Rasumovsky” quartets that were commissioned by a Viennese count and composed in 1805. It is one of Beethoven’s middle period works, which serve as a bridge to his later, more profound final quartets. The well deserved bravos that greeted this performance were a response to the astonishing playing of the final Allegro molto, which left the performers calm and the audience breathless.

This Friends of Music season, now ended, was especially rich and varied, with outstanding performances from pianists, string players and brass ensembles. Each brought highly individual interpretations of often challenging music, which represented the enormous range of masterworks from five centuries.