The quartet began with Dmitri Shostakovich's Quartet No. 7. The intensely gripping piece channels the emotions of the politically subversive composer Shostakovich living under the oppressive Soviet regime. The Minneapolis Quartet played with such passion and control that they invoked the feeling of the KGB on the back of one's neck.
It was almost unsettling to be thrust next into Ludwig Beethoven's more playful Quartet No. 6. Yet the performers made the transition with such earnestness that the listener had no trouble keeping up. Thundering fortissimos and velvet pianissimos gave the Beethoven the intensity it deserves, while retaining the charm that makes this classical quartet as bouncy and fun as Silly Putty.
The concert's second half featured a sensitive and insightful presentation of Felix Mendelssohn's Quartet No. 2 in E minor, full of endless energy and effortless precision.
The quartet played with such oneness of spirit that members of the audience breathed and swayed as if they, too, were part of the ensemble.
The Minneapolis Quartet has performed together for four years and maintains an active rehearsal and performance schedule. They all also perform in the Minnesota Orchestra and have impressive resumes of orchestral, chamber and solo performance.
Yet the key to their success lies not only in individual talent but in the meticulously crafted rapport of the ensemble. "We're rehears-a-holics," violist Kerri Ryan said.
Ryan proved her dedication to the quartet's demanding schedule earlier this year when she declined a temporary teaching position at St. Olaf while Professor of Music Charles Gray is on sabbatical.
Earlier in the day the quartet held two master classes for St. Olaf student string quartets. One group even performed with Minneapolis Quartet first violinist Vali Phillips because their regular first violinist was absent.
The master classes were an excellent opportunity for St. Olaf students to familiarize themselves with the ensemble's musical philosophy before seeing it played out on stage.
The Quartet's next performance is Sunday, Oct. 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Hamline University's Sundin Music Hall, featuring the music of Mendelssohn and Bela Bartok.