Dallas — One of the joys of living in Dallas is that fine music pops up in the least expected places. One of the purveyors of such pleasures is Open Classical DFW. They present an open mic for classical performers, of all abilities, on a weekly basis at Buzzbrews Kitchen in Dallas and others in Frisco and Fort Worth. But they also present fine professional music at equally informal venues.
Such was the case on Wednesday evening when they presented the sit-up-and-take-notice Altius Quartet. The venue was the AllGood Café in Deep Ellum—and everything on the menu vindicated the name of the establishment.
These four exceptionally fine string players are currently the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado-Boulder and are under the very able wing of the Takács String Quartet.
Founding member and violinist Andrew Giordano is from Williamsport, Penn.; violinist Joshua Ulrich is from Saint Petersburg, Fla.; violist Andrew Krimm is from Dallas; and cellist Zachary Reaves is a founding member from Oklahoma City.
Although their site doesn’t mention it, they formed at Southern Methodist University in 2011 (Ulrich joined in 2014). No matter where they are from or where they are, they are certainly going places.
The concert opened with the last movement of Haydn’s string quartet Op. 74, No.1—a joyous romp if ever there was one. They took it at a fairly standard clip of around a metronome marking of 160, which is very fast, requiring clean technique. Some recordings go as fast as 170 or quicker, but nothing is really gained by the faster tempi. They gave it a clean and crisp performance.
As with most performers these days, such delightful music is often played too seriously and so it was here. This is not to say that the music didn’t have humor and bounce—it did—but some smiles, even some antics, as they handed off the runs from one to the other would have been welcome. The foursome hinted at this but it was just under the surface and expected to bloom at almost every measure, but alas, they didn’t take the leap.
They also played the first two movements of Beethoven’s Op. 59, No. 1. Once again, their technical mastery was quite impressive. Their tendency here was to overplay, especially in the scherzo, which took on Bartókian attacks.
Intonation was dead on, although the amplified sound of the instruments didn’t help. Amplification is one of the compromises required to play in a restaurant setting, but the rewards of bringing music out of the stuffy concert hall and into places where people actually go anyway is worth the effort.
Of great interest was an arrangement of “Stairway to Heaven” by Led Zeppelin, a rock song written in 1971. It was remarkable to hear this song stripped of its rock nature and presented in such a simplified format as pure music. Just beautiful!
Unfortunately, another threatened monsoon pulled me away at intermission, but the selections I heard were enough to predict a bright future on the international concert circuit for the quartet.
You can still hear them while they are in North Texas.
Here is the schedule:
- 8 p.m. Friday, May 29: House Concert with wine and dinner at LaViola Manor, 6029 Connely Drive, Frisco
- 8 p.m. Saturday, May 30: Live Oak Music Hall & Lounge, 1311 Lipscomb St., Fort Worth
- 6 p.m. Sunday, May 31: Intimate Dinner Concert at Times Ten Cellars, 6324 Prospect Ave., Dallas