Id been begging since 2002 for the Schubert G Major Quartet, which is the Mt. Everest of string quartets. Its almost an hour long. The answer I got was always the same: A group of pickup musicians doesnt have the extra rehearsal time to put that one together. In the end it was a professional quartet that presented it.
I had visited the Ehnes String Quartet in Macon in December, and it was this group that performed in Seattle. Jimmy Ehnes (first violin) is the new Artistic Director in Seattle, and he is going far beyond the traditional fare. Amy Moretti (second violin), who runs the music department at Mercer University in Macon, told me that it only took them three rehearsals to put it together. (That kind of musicianship scares me.) Richard ONeill, half-Korean and half-Irish, the violist, had told me of the impossibility of programming this quartet for a festival, but there he was, playing it. Robert deMaine, cellist and good friend, is moving from Detroit to L.A. to take up first chair cello at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which is a huge step up for him.
The quartet performed the Schubert as though the ink were still wet on the page and Schubert were a modern composer. The first movement had a good hard edge to it. Robert played the cello passage in the finale in an appropriately R-rated way. Its really nasty, he told me. It was a great performance and was worth the trip.
Everybody was happy to see me at the concerts, and I discovered that I had been missed. After the Schubert, several people thanked me for being so persistent in requesting that quartet, which had never been performed at the festival.
The traffic was the only thing that marred the trip. Where I live in Georgia, the nearest traffic lights are 20 miles south and 60 miles north. I had forgotten what I-5 was like. But it was good to see my old friends.