The Ivalas Quartet
In living color
by arwulf arwulf
From the June, 2019 issue
Classically trained, college educated, and well on their way toward careers as professional musicians, Ann Arbor's Ivalas Quartet strongly identifies with their black and Latinx communities. Violinists Anita Dumar and Reuben Kebede, violist Aimee McAnulty, and cellist Pedro Sanchez have always been keenly aware of being outnumbered in their specialized field. Their stated goal is to bring about increased visibility for musicians of color as "living proof of the power of diversity in all art forms."
In a statement posted on their website, they describe being profoundly moved after playing for elementary and middle school children in Flint and Detroit. "To see young kids react positively to classical music performed by people who look like them on stage has cemented the validity of our mission."
On June 21, the group will perform at Kerrytown Concert House, along with other musicians, as part of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Residence. The Ivalas will open the concert with Leos Janacek's String Quartet No. 1, an impassioned opus that shares its subtitle with two other famous works of art. Janacek's "The Kreutzer Sonata" is Czech music inspired by a Russian novella, which itself was named after Beethoven's most complex and demanding composition for violin and piano. Janacek transfers the psychological torrents of Tolstoy's tragic narrative into music that is pensive, dramatic, and restless; at times, the quartet fairly boils over with unexpected modulations. "One unusual chord," wrote Janacek in 1926, "can save a composition, if it is a real bleeding knot of feeling."
Those words seem appropriate for Zoltan Kodaly's emotionally torqued Duo for Violin and Cello, which will be conjured by Kimberly Kaloyanides Kennedy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and Emerson Quartet cellist Paul Watkins. This fascinating, intimate work carries the mysterious charm of impressions from life that have been marinated in private reflection. Composed in 1914, just as the outbreak of WWI interrupted Kodaly's many years of collecting folk songs among Carpathian Mountain peasants, the Duo manifests
as a wordless yet potently expressive dialogue. As musicologist Harry Halbreich once wrote, "under Kodaly's pen, the cello seems to speak Hungarian."
The evening's program will culminate as the Emerson's violist, Lawrence Dutton, joins the Ivalas for Felix Mendelssohn's String Quintet No. 2. This texturally varied work opens and closes with lively, at times frenetic scrubbing on the strings, which chatter like swallows, to use one of Janacek's favorite figures of speech. Its middle movements consist of a swaying, attractively relaxed scherzo and a shadowy adagio wreathed in weltschmerz.
[Originally published in June, 2019.]
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