March 8, 2018 | 1.30 pm
Sara Bitlloch, Donald Grant, violins; Simone van der Giessen, viola; Marie Bitlloch, cello, pictured here with Artistic Director Simon Fryer (far right) and string students from Alexander MacKenzie HS
Franz Schubert Quartettsatz
Leoš Janáček String Quartet No. 2, ‘Intimate Letters’
Ludwig van Beethoven String Quartet No. 12 in E flat Major, Op. 127
Review by Joseph So in Ludwig Van Toronto, March 10, 2018:
“The recital of the UK-based Elias String Quartet opened with a lovely performance of the 8-minute Quartettsatz in C Minor by Schubert. It was played with uncommon technical precision, not to mention the requisite musicality, in particular a singing tone, so important in this happy piece of music.
This was followed by Leos Janácek’s String Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Letters.” Cellist Marie Bittloch spoke to the audience about the genesis of this work, which involved the 62-year old composer’s infatuation with Kamila Stösslová, at 26 a much younger woman. It appears his love was unrequited. Janácek’s feelings for her are revealed in a series of love letters, a few snippets read by Bittloch to the audience. Composed around the same time as his opera, Jenufa, you can really hear echoes of it and his other works, in his unique harmonic language and his trademark, repeated little figurations so often used in his orchestration.
The recital concluded with Beethoven’s quietly lyrical and refined String Quartet No. 12. After the modernist Janacek, it’s an interesting contrast to return to a much more traditional piece, played with a beautifully singing tone. I’ve always been impressed by the knowledgeable WMCT audience, one that you can count on never applauding prematurely. Well, not on this occasion I guess! After a particularly vivid rendition of the Scherzo, a few in the audience got carried away. The piece ended with a happy and lively Allegro that lifts the spirit. The audience gave the Elias Quartet generously warm ovations, and they rewarded the virtually full Walter Hall with an encore, announced to the audience by violinist Donald Grant, as tunes from the Scottish Highlands. Mr. Grant, who is from the Scottish Highlands himself, played the folksong-like solo exquisitely, a fine end to a marvellous concert.”