Review by Edward Kliszus

Bryant Park Pop-up Concert Series, Bryant Park in Manhattan (upper terrace)

The Program:

Nino Rota, Love theme from Romeo and Juliet for string quartet

Nino Rota, Quartetto per archi (1948/54)

Samuel Barber, String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 (1935)

George Walker, String Quartet No. 1, Lyric (1946)

Curated by William Frampton, tonight’s string quartet featured the American Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster Cyrus Beroukhim, principal violinist Richard Rood, principal violist William Frampton, and cellist Alberto Parrini. What a treat to attend this musical tribute to violinist, composer and instructor Rosario Scalero, and works of just three of his protégés Nino Roti, Samuel Barber and George Walker.

Set against the cacophony of New York City’s streets, replete with sirens, engines, and conversations, four musical artists emerged onto the raised terrace under the pensive statue of 19th century poet, civic reformer, and newspaper editor William Cullen Bryant. Gently piercing the air with beauty, peace, design and affect, the ensemble introduced the soft strains of Nino Rota’s Love Theme, immediately moving this participant and fellow music denizens to sigh, comforted, partaking in live music quelled under the boot of viral pestilence these many months.

Members of the quartet took turns introducing successive works in the program, bridging the psychic connection between music, composer, performer, and listener, promulgating fresh familiarity of varied 20th century tonal works. We experienced and benefited from a broad pedigree of musical giants and works distilled into the refined sounds of a string ensemble of four gifted artists from a wonderful orchestra.

With just a taste of Rota through his cinematic Love Theme, we were successively treated to his Quartetto per archi (1948-54). How fortunate Rota took time from his incredibly successful film scoring career to “write his symphony”.

Barber’s String Quartet Opus 11, composed and first performed in 1938 by the NBC Symphony conducted by Arturo Toscanini, drew us into the heralded, pathos rich renowned molto adagio espressivo cantando, better known to the world as The Adagio for Strings. It opened with its single lyric subject spoken by the violins, traded to the viola and other voices, mysterious meters, rising ultimately to its fortissimo, whispered its tranquil close.

Pulitzer Prize winner composer, pianist and teacher George Walker’s String Quartet No. 1. (1946) concluded our experience. The second movement’s original name Lament was changed by the composer to Lyric for Strings, aptly describing its intrinsic beauty, form and subsequent ubiquitous performances and recognition.

After a hearty applause and call back, the ensemble treated the audience with an encore. Bravo!

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Run time: 65 minutes