Accordo — Image courtesy The Schubert Club

Accordo: Intimate Voices

Works by Sibelius, Kodály & Dvořák

The final concert in the Twin Cities string ensemble Accordo‘s fourth season, titled Intimate Voices, brought together three pieces that were composed within a little more than two decades of each other, all of them incorporating influences from traditional folk music. Yet despite these surface similarities, the group gave each piece a performance that emphasized its unique character and qualities.

Accordo opened with the concert’s namesake piece, Jean Sibelius’s string quartet Voces intimae. Written at a low point in Sibelius’s experience with alcoholism and depression, the quartet is one of his very few mature chamber works, as well as one of his most introverted pieces. The group’s performance of the faster movements married rhythmic precision with a lightness of touch, allowing the dancelike aspects of the music to come through as a private and wistful sort of dance. In the slow central movement, with its sparse instrumentation and frequent pauses, Accordo gave a restrained performance, leaving the emotional content to simmer below the surface.

Zoltán Kodály’s Duo for Violin and Cello is a thornier, modernist piece, and violinist Erin Keefe and cellist Ronald Thomas gave it a compelling rendition. In the middle movement, Thomas highlighted the shifts between the cello part’s extremes of introspection and aggression, and in the folk-based sections of the final movement, Keefe made Kodály’s music sound almost improvisational.

Accordo turned in a much more extroverted direction with Antonín Dvořák’s third string quintet, the American, written during the composer’s brief stay in rural Spillville, Iowa. Despite featuring only one more player than the Sibelius quartet, the quintet sounded much thicker and heavier, particularly in the sections in which multiple instruments play lively folk melodies in unison. In the slow movement, on the other hand, the group took the opportunity to highlight another side of Dvořák, giving a beautifully delicate performance of the composer’s moving set of variations.

Over the past four seasons, Accordo’s carefully conceived and artfully executed performances have emerged as highlights of the classical music calendar in the Twin Cities. Before Tuesday’s concert, presenter Kate Nordstrum announced that a fifth season is in the works and will be announced this summer. On the evidence of this performance, audiences will undoubtedly be looking forward to what comes next.

Archival photo by Tim Rummelhoff

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Eric Prindle

administers Bad Entertainment. He is also an attorney who leads a team of legal marketing copywriters at FindLaw. He is not Eric Prindle, the mixed martial arts fighter.