For its 2011-12 season, Peoples' Symphony Concerts celebrated the 60th anniversary of the Marlboro Music Festival by booking exclusively individuals or groups that have had the Marlboro summer experience. It was most fitting that this season ended with the participation of Peter Serkin, eminent concert pianist and son of Marlboro co-founder Rudolf Serkin. Serkin joined with the Shanghai String Quartet for a rousing rendition of Dvorak's Piano Quintet. During the first half of the concert, the Shanghais played Beethoven's First String Quartet (Op. 18, No. 1) and Bartok's 3rd Quartet (Sz. 85). Thus we had a nicely diversified program stretching in compositional time from 1801 through 1927. Although it was written so long ago, the Bartok Quartet has enough advanced harmonic thinking to remain challenging for an audience in 2012.
I thought the Beethoven was deliciously rendered, warm and graceful. The Bartok was on the more acidulous side. Unlike some quartets, that may luxuriate in the potentially lush textures of the first part and its recapitulation after the scherzo-like second part, the Shanghai Quartet presented a more astringent tone quality, which worked in its own way.
This has been a marvelous season - not surprisingly, in light of the excellence of the Marlboro program and the people who are invited to participate in it. Peoples' Symphony usually includes a "Music from Marlboro" concert as one of its seasonable offerings (they had two of those this season), and I'm sure they will keep bringing back the Marlboro folks, who are always welcome.
PSC will be sending out its renewal announcements in June. I can't wait…. this is the greatest bargain in NYC for anybody who loves chamber music.