Chamber music wasn't on the agenda for my recent trip to Kansas City, but I'm always willing to make room for it. The Chiara String Quartet's show at The Brick was definitely worth the detour.
The Kansas City Star's peripatetic Pablo Horsely caught the second set, after a performance by the Zehetmair String Quartet a few blocks away at the Folly Theater (part of the Friends of Chamber Music series). His review is here, but let me fill in what Paul missed and what for me was the head-snap part of the show.
The CSQ opened their first set with a movement from Jefferson Friedman's String Quartet #2. It's a muscular and angular piece he composed especially for the Chiara, full of growling and animal drive. They followed that with a movement from a piece by Haydn. The effect of that juxtaposition for me was like seeing the skeleton of the same or similar beast.
This is something that Chiara likes to do in club shows like the one at the Brick and it makes sense. They've already broken down the distance and formality that usually separates classical players from their audience. Losing the formal structure of individual works has the same effect. Frankly, I'm more motivated now to go out and find/hear the rest of the Freidman and Haydn (and Brahms and Bartok and other pieces) they played selections from than I would be had I been forced to sit through each in turn.
It's pretty clear that Chiara is still getting used to the club approach. They seemed to be somewhat abashed by the applause between pieces. I didn't think the amplification was altogether necessary or helpful (during the music, that is; it was great for between-piece chats) and it seemed to flatten the overall dynamic from where I was sitting, as though the actual quartet was competing with its amplified doppeganger. I also think the mics occasionally got doinked in the process of spirited bowing.
That said, I'm looking forward to seeing them again. Brava!
The week before the show, Wayward Blog asked the perspicacious Chris Packham to put Chiara in context. And, of course, he did.
Chamber Music Today also covered the Brick gig here, and they have more edjumacated things to say about the gig (and chamber music) than I.
Photo above courtesy of the Chiara String Quartet's website. (And no they're not standing in downtown KC trying to figure out where the new light rail system is going to be. They can worry about that when they play The Brick in 2025 or so.)