St. Lawrence String Quartet pleases audience with emotional repertoire

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CLINTON — Lively, energetic and a times a touch of “chaotic,” Hamilton College opened its fall series of performances on Sept. 15 to high acclaim for the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The evening’s program was
broken into three sections of
repertoire performed for a
curious audience that almost packed the Carol Woodhouse Wellin Performance Hall. St.
Lawrence String Quartet is comprised of Geoff Nuttall on violin; Owen Dalby, violin; Lesley Robertson, viola; and Utica-native
Christopher Constanza on cello.

Introducing the night of classical selections was the String Quartet in C Major, Op. 33, No. 3, “The Bird,” with pieces that included the Allegro moderato, Adagio ma non troppo and Rondo-Presto finale, by Franz Josef Haydn.

Pieces included a happy array of light and whimsy, along with plucky staccato rhythms. The tunes set the mood for a relaxing, upbeat atmosphere. Although it’s been quite some time since I’ve performed for an audience, having studied the cello and other instruments during my school days, I was delightfully surprised and entertained by the performers’ body language. It was evident through a kick of a leg, nod of the head or excited glare that each musician was truly putting a piece of themselves into each work.

At some points I wondered if violinist Geoff Nuttall was going to literally jump off his seat. He and others made the music welcoming and approachable, with their individual expressions shared universally with the audience.

Tone took a complete 180,
however, when following applause the St. Lawrence String Quartet returned for the performance of String Quartet, Op. 3, including Langsam and MaBige Viertel by Alban Berg.

The moods ranged from the mysterious to gloomy and haunting. At the beginning of intermission, I heard an audience member say, “That was chaotic,” toward some young students in the crowd, which made me smile because the word “chaos” was the exact one that jumped into my mind as the musicians played.

And speaking of students, it was quite refreshing to see several young faces among the audience who not only respected the art being presented to them, but visually enjoyed the experience.

Before performing the final repertoire, Nuttall told the back story of their next group of selections: String Quartet No. 3 in E-flat minor, Op. 30, including Andante sostenuto, Andante funebre e doloroso, ma con moto and Allegro non troppo e resoluto. The movement was composed by Pyotr Hyich Tchaikovsky, who was most noted for penning the scores for the Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

Nuttall explained that Tchaikovsky dedicated the work in memory of the renowned violinist Ferdinand Laub whose performances premiered the composer’s First and Second String Quartets. Tones ranged from gleeful to melancholy and the measures reflected happy times shared between the two talents and the sadness that celebrated the end of a great life.

A standing ovation following the evening’s performance prompted the St. Lawrence String Quartet to once again take the stage to play a minuet by Mozart, who happened to be Tchaikovsky’s favorite composer, Nuttall said.

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