Quartet wows auidence

By Amy Armalis

A world-renowned musical group performed Tuesday night at the Music Building and few people know the significance of its four musicians, nor do many people on NIU’s campus know that the four men are members of the music department’s faculty and together are considered one of the world’s top classical music ensembles.

The Vermeer Quartet started its 31st concert season at NIU with its presentation of a Beethoven quartet. Four music professors make up the Vermeer: Shmuel Ashkenasi, Mathias Tacke, Richard Young and Marc Johnson. The musicians have been together as the Vermeer Quartet since 1969 and recently recorded a CD of Beethoven’s complete quartets.

The Boutell Memorial Concert Hall was half-filled with music students and music lovers to see the quartet, which also has been nominated for a Grammy.

Kate Pohl, a freshman music education major, was looking forward to the concert. She already had heard of the quartet and knew they were considered one of the top five string quartets in the world.

“I expected it to be amazing.” Pohl said. “It was very good.”

Tuesday’s program included “Quartet in A Major, Op. 18 No. 5,” “Quartet in F Minor, Op. 95 (‘Serioso’)” and “Quartet in C Major, Op. 59 No. 3.”

During “Quartet in C Major,” a young couple leaned their heads together while listening to the slower and lower toned “Adante con Moto Quasi Allegretto.”

Liz Roth, a freshman music education major, also liked that particular quartet.

“I liked the last arrangement. It was more vigorous,” Roth said. “I expected they would be able to play the music well. It was what I expected.”

While classical music may be a hard performance to follow, one thing was for sure – the microphones for the sound system were so fine that the musicians’ intakes of breath were heard during breaks of notes. That sharpness helped to make the notes of two violins, one viola and a cello crystal clear for all to enjoy the music.

Even though it only was required for his music class, Lance Higham, a junior business management major, stayed for the performance and found something positive in the concert.

“It’s strange,” he said. “I’ve never listened to this kind of music before.” Higham particularly liked the fast tempo arrangements, adding, “Some of it’s too slow. The faster parts I can get into.”

The musicians also get into the performance. On strong notes, the players stomped their feet to the ground in sync with the music. While their faces remained stoic and concentrated, their body language – moving legs and feet as well as twisting torsos – showed otherwise. These four men were totally engrossed in the music.

Beethoven’s complete quartets are to be presented in six concerts over three semesters. The next concert of the Vermeer Quartet is at 8 p.m. March 26 at the Music Building’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall.