Telegraph offered an evening of high-quality music

The Chamber Music Society of Williamsburg brought us probably one of the most recently organized string quartets we’ve heard, the Telegraph Quartet, which was featured Tuesday at the Williamsburg Library Theater.

While formed in 2013, the San Francisco-based ensemble brings to its present the individual and collective pasts of each member, most of whom have been with the Telegraph from the start. All of the members have had extensive experience playing individually and with other chamber groups, as well as in worldwide festivals.

As the Telegraph, the group has garnered its share of important competitions, playing the rounds of concert series across the states and Europe, recording, and even serving a pied piper-type function in taking a mobile stage to areas outside main street concert venues for use in sharing its music.

Without question, the quartet (Joseph Maile and Eric Chin, violins; Pei-Ling Lin, viola; Jeremiah Shaw, cello) offered a perfect balance in programming, artistic ability and sound, the latter possibly due to having the violins in bookend seating positions one and four rather than the usual side by side. It seemed to provide a fuller overall sound and more balanced quality. Technically, the four were flawless and tireless in putting out the utmost excellence possible. Each constantly held the eye of the other, coordinating all things musical was a unified effort with big pay off results. The finesse involved in matched attacks and releases, dynamic fluctuations and fluidity of line was standard setting.

The program was a nod to the standard and less so repertoire, with works by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, Dvorak and Mozart, the latter which opened the fare. Mozart’s D Major is a charming work filled with the joy, effervescence and elegance that Mozart, at his best, best captures. An exercise in pleasant listening, there’s nothing to ponder, except the beauty of the moment. Its clean, delicately crafted lines were easily embraced by the Telegraph, which provided a crystal clear, concise and crafted product.

The most curious piece on the program by a composer most likely unfamiliar to most in the theater was Weinberg’s String Quartet No. 6 in E Minor. Often compared to Shostakovich in his introspective, melancholic style, Weinberg’s E Minor was written in 1946, banned by the USSR Composer’s Union in 1948 (for being a bit too extreme), and didn’t really get a world premiere until 2007. Such a shame since, at this playing, it’s obviously a smashing piece that is dramatic and completely compelling.

The influence Shostakovich had on Weinberg is evident. It’s a moody piece, heavy on long, longing lines and sense of darkness, often strident sounds depicting desperation, pain, suffering and reaction to Nazi oppression and the Holocaust, which destroyed most of his family. Not a lot of light in it. There are ethnic influences throughout, treated in standard and modern tones, styles and sounds. Structurally and thematically, its six movements are closely linked musical motifs, of sorts, showing up here and there, the finale serving as a summary of all that went before, the pain and despair ending in a resolve and hopeful sense of inner peace. The Telegraph’s delivery was involved, intense and spiritual. We were fortunate to experience this stunning piece and performance.

Closing the fare was the emotionally uplifting comfort of Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat Major. A delight to hear, it features many of Dvorak’s signature traits such as reliance on folk idiom, inviting harmonies and melodies, rhythmic structure and warmth of feeling. It is peaceful, playful, pastoral and passionate, qualities the Telegraph brought to its rendering, along with an evident sense of joy in playing, which was seen and felt and heard throughout this wonderful evening of high quality music.

Shulson, a Williamsburg resident, has been covering the arts for more than 40 years. He makes a guest appearance in Margaret Truman's "Murder at the Opera."

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