“Much Ado About Nothing” receives high praise from American Record Guide

Truly excellent performances here, and if the program interests you, don’t miss it. Actually, even if it doesn’t, and you love great quartet playing, don’t miss it.

ARG has published a glowing review of the Shakespeare Concerts and Amernet Quartet’s recording “Much Ado About Nothing”. The full review appears in the May/June 2018 edition, and is replicated with their permission below.

Much Ado About Nothing
Divertimentos; KORNGOLD: 3 Pieces;
SUMMER: Dance of the Mechanics
Amernet Quartet; Brian Powell, db
Centaur 3499—66 minutes

The Shakespeare Concerts series was begun in 2003, in Massachusetts and the US Virgin Islands. It is dedicated to music inspired by the Immortal Bard. Joseph Summer is the Executive Director and is a skilled composer—his ‘Dance of the Mechanics’ closes this excellent recital.

The Shakespearean connection defines the choice of works—an eclectic, but also quite satisfying program. For instance, Beethoven indicated that the slow movement of Op. 18:1 was inspired by the vault scene in Romeo and Juliet. The Britten, a student work, has a subtitle, “Go play, boy, play”—part of a bitter passage in A Winter’s Tale, where Leontes decries cuckoldry, as he prepares to murder his unfaithful wife and daughter. Whether Britten, as a student, fully realized this, one wonders—the work is playful, not bitter and certainly has nothing of the anger from the whole passage in Shakespeare.

The Korngold was arranged from his incidental music for Much Ado About Nothing. He made several versions of that, including a suite for violin and piano that we have reviewed four or five times. This arrangement for string quartet seems new to records. Summer’s notes go into considerable detail about his efforts to trace the music’s copyright provenance and performance history. It’s an amusing tale—in the end, he can’t tell with complete accuracy, but it is probably the world premiere of the work. Korngold is best known for his film scores, but he composed a bit of everything, including chamber music. World premiere or not, it’s good to have this music on records.Summer’s own Dance of the Mechanics gives music to several comic characters in their dance scene in Love’s Labour’s Lost. He adds a contrabass for this music, ably performed by Brian Powell. The music is intentionally comic, but the structure of the eight movement set is well crafted, coming to an exciting conclusion.

The Amernet Quartet is Ensemble-in-Residence at Florida International University in Miami, so I have heard them in several local performances. They are a world-class quartet, and they handle the variety of this program with perfection. The Beethoven is really Beethoven—too often these quartets sound like Haydn’s younger, brasher brother. In particular, the slow movement is filled with deep pathos—appropriate for its Romeo and Juliet inspiration. The Britten is played with slashing intensity of the sort I associate with the Emerson Quartet, yet the playful nature is never lost. The Korngold captures his rich, lush, post-romantic language; and Summer’s work is given a wry, clever performance. You’ll hear truly excellent performances here, and if the program interests you, don’t miss it. Actually, even if it doesn’t, and you love great quartet playing, don’t miss it.

May/June 2018
American Record Guide


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