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New York string quartet superb in Society of the Four Arts concert

02.01.18
New York Philharmonic String Quartet
Palm Beach Daily News

Despite its short history, the New York Philharmonic String Quartet gave a superb concert Wednesday at The Society of the Four Arts.
 
Founded last year, the ensemble is comprised of four principal musicians from New York’s fabled orchestra: violinists Frank Huang and Sheryl Staples, violist Cynthia Phelps and cellist Carter Brey. With many solo accomplishments, together they displayed cohesiveness, balance, perfect intonation and a refreshing non-theatrical stage presence.
 
Their program started with Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 4 in C minor, Op. 18. Part of the earliest set of quartets published by the young master, it is the only one in a minor key and, arguably, the most indebted to Joseph Haydn.
 
The quartet tackled the work with precision and remarkable balance. This is not an ensemble dominated by the first violin (Huang), as all the musicians seem to be more interested in serving the works they are playing, rather than their own artistic ambitions.
 
This remained clear in the next work on the program, Antonín Dvorák’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op. 96. Written during the summer of 1893, the “American” quartet displays the composer’s mastery and his standing as an epigone of the genre. Indeed, although one is certainly charmed by American music elements in the four movements, the work sounds simplistic at times, overworked at others.
 
Still, the New York ensemble performed it with romantic élan and grace — each of its members’ solos tackled with utmost taste and technical precision.
 
The program closed with the String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80 by Felix Mendelssohn. The last major work by the short-lived genius, this is Mendelssohn at his best: a unique blend of romantic pathos and old-fashioned contrapuntal writing.