122 Diotima Quartet

Yun-Peng Zhao, violin; Constance Ronzatti, violin; Franck Chevalier, viola; Pierre Morlet, cello

Thursday, February 27, 2020 | 1.30 pm | Walter Hall, University of Toronto

Quatuor Diotima is one of the most in-demand chamber ensembles in the world today. Formed by graduates of the Paris National Conservatory, the quartet’s name evokes a double musical significance: Diotima is at once an allegory of German romanticism and a rallying cry for the music of our time. Quatuor Diotima collaborates with the greatest composers of our time, and projects a new light onto the masterpieces of the 19th and 20th centuries.Awarded the European Cultural Heritage Award by the French Ministry of Culture the quartet is in residence at Radio France in Paris.

  • Alban Berg — String Quartet, op. 3
  • Misato Mochizuki — Brains CANADIAN PREMIERE
  • Ludwig van Beethoven — String Quartet no. 15, op. 132, A minor

The Diotima Quartet will also give the WMCT-sponsored master class, Friday, February 28, 11 am – 1 pm in Walter Hall.

Review in Ludwig van by Joseph So The Ensemble kicked off the proceedings with Japanese composer Misato Mochizuki’s Brains, a Canadian premiere. This was originally commissioned by Radio France for the Diotima Quartet. From what I could decipher from the program notes, the composer attempts to “musicalize” — my choice of words — the neurological activities, centering around four phenomena — “fixed patterns,” “emotions,” “learning and renewal” and “consciousness.” If that sounds slightly daunting and unfathomable, well, it is, for those of us who do not live and breathe new music all the time.

This score offers the listener an extraordinarily different sound world, one that’s light years away from traditional classical music. It’s challenging yet intriguing, and I dare say it requires repeated hearings to truly get it. The idea of capturing and turning neurological functions into music is daunting indeed. I couldn’t help but think that Brains is a prime example of new music that appeals to the head rather than the heart — the pun strictly coincidental. No, it’s not for everyone.

I never thought I’d say this, but compared to Brains, Alban Berg’s String Quartet No. 3 is on much more familiar ground. It represents Berg at his atonal best, and Diotima Quartet, with its great sensitivity, brought out beautifully the inherent lyricism in the score. I find their playing less edgy and angular than some other ensembles I have heard in this repertoire. The WMCT audience, always among the best behaved I’ve experienced, gave the artists a well-deserved, warm reception.

After the typical WMCT intermission with coffee tea and biscuits, the second half consisted of one of Beethoven’s late string quartets, no. 15, op. 132, a huge and structurally complex work at 45 minutes. Together with op. 130 and 131 (the best known) these are three of Beethoven’s late works, not so appreciated at the time but now revered. Here Diotima Quartet gave an exquisite reading of this piece, rather slow in tempo but never lax, and altogether authoritative and well-judged.

There you have it, for those of us braving the elements to get there, we were well compensated musically. Next up is another unusual combination, Beverly Johnston & Friends, an afternoon of percussion, flute and violin, on April 2. Mark your calendar. Details.


All artists, dates, and programmes are subject to change without notice.

12.15 pm | Tuning Your Mind

Pre-concert Lecture | Free to ticket-holders

Artistic Director Simon Fryer

reveals the 123rd season | 2020-2021


In consideration of those with allergies or sensitivities, please refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, or other scented products at concerts. We share the air: go scent free.