Arneis String Quartet wins FSU’s heart with pizzicato techniques

On Feb. 25, the Arneis String Quartet performed a concert at the Ecumenical Center, as part of FSU’s Midday Performances series.

Thirty-six people attended.

The quartet consisted of Boston University alumni, most of them having a background in teaching, with Heather Braun and Rose Drucker on violins, Daniel Doña on viola, and Agnes Kim on the cello. 

Before each piece, a member of the quartet provided historical context behind the composition they were about to perform, with their first number a performance of Joseph Haydn’s “Opus 33, No. 5.”

“Each movement in this piece has a different tone to it,” said Doña.

Movement one drew the audience in with a powerful, regal introduction, complete with tense moments of slowness, allowing the quartet to work toward a build-up of explosive sound. At times, there were also call-and-response interactions among the group. 

The second movement was a slower, more mellow-sounding section, with an emphasis on the violin playing of Braun, allowing the other quartet members to provide an underlying layer to complement her virtuosic fiddling, especially during her solo. This movement would fit well in a period drama or a ballroom dance scene.

An explosive, fast-paced intro set the tone for the piece’s third movement, featuring a greater emphasis on Kim’s cello-playing abilities. While the movement gave the audience a great show of passion from the quartet, it was also the shortest movement of the piece.

The fourth and final movement was a slow, waltz-like piece that was very solo-driven, with Kim and Doña performing their own solos, one after another, until Braun stormed in with flair. The slowness is, then, broken up by an increase of speed that nobody in the audience expected.

After the quartet concluded Haydn’s piece, Braun provided context regarding Maurice Ravel, a French composer, and his work, the “String Quartet in F minor.”

“This piece became one of the most recorded string quartets in history. … It is very melodious and filled with pizzicato, so you’ll be hearing us plucking our strings a lot,” said Braun.

The quartet began the first movement with a slow, gorgeous opening. As the section progressed, the tone fluctuated up and down, creeating emphasis on the repetition found throughout it. With the inclusion of pizzicato, listeners were in for a unique experience, compared to Haydn’s piece. 

This movement played around with pacing, switching between tempos. However, when they played slow, they brought back the tension with fast and loud fade-ins to catch the listener on their feet. As the movement faded out, light sounds of pizzicato came from each member’s respective instrument.

Movement two was more of the same, pizzicato-wise, establishing an elegant tone with the piece. A highlight of the movement was the trading of pizzicato between Braun and Drucker, which led into a pizzicato solo by Kim, with Doña joining in the pizzicato festivities, showing a sense of rising action with the section.

In Braun’s introduction of the work, she made a note that this movement appeared in the opening scene of Wes Anderson’s 2001 comedy-drama, “The Royal Tenenbaums.” 

The final movement of this piece featured an intense, low-pitched viola intro by Doña, as well as call-and-response interactions between Doña and the violin players. This leads into a slow, depressive, and reflective section.

However, not everything is dark and gloomy. Sinister-sounding transitions aside, the group fiddled their way into a loud, triumphant outro with quiet plucking to carry the composition out. Doña played a solo to end the concert.

To learn more about the Arneis String Quartet, visit arneisquartet.com. 

The next Midday Performance will be on March 25, featuring New Inca Son in the McCarthy Center Forum.  

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