Scream And Shout

Steven Robert Allen
2 min read
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The St. Lawrence String Quartet is one tight little unit, let me tell you. The group was recently here in town as part of Chamber Music Albuquerque's venerable June Music Festival. I so dug their performance last Sunday at the Albuquerque Academy.

The opening Mozart quartet didn't really get my attention, but I've always had a weak spot for the quartets Beethoven composed right before he died. The shit, for sure. Almost two hundred years later, these five quartets still sound radical and strange. This foursome—featuring Geoff Nuttall (violin), Barry Shiffman (violin), Lesley Robertson (viola) and Christopher Costanza (cello)—capped off their Sunday performance with the Quartet in E-flat, op. 127, the first of the bunch, and they did a bang up job of it, too. Midway through the first movement, I felt like I'd locked in with the music, and it was smooth but crazy ride to the finish.

The piece performed in the middle, though, right before the intermission, really shook the house down. This version of R. Murray Schafer's Quartet No. 3 really had to be heard—and seen!—to be believed. The Canadian composer's first movement begins with a long blistering cello solo. The other three players enter from different points in the auditorium, gradually converging on stage, both musically and physically.

But the second movement. My god, the second movement! Let's just say it involves a lot of barking, hissing, yelling and moaning. The music turns violent, confrontational, but it's still somehow beautiful. Even my wife, who ordinarily loathes contemporary art music, got into it.

The final movement gives listeners a chance to compose themselves. Slow, meditative, equally gorgeous, its like some impossible, instantaneous cure for a gaping bloody wound.

All in all, sweet stuff. I noticed the crowd was a bit elderly. If this foursome is any indication, Chamber Music Albuquerque's events deserve an under 30 audience. Rock on, CMA.

The final installment of CMA's June Music Festival will feature the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio on Friday, June 24, and Sunday, June 26, at 4 p.m. at the Albuquerque Academy's Simms Auditorium. For details, call 268-1990 or log onto

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