The New York Times
“The robust, young Fry Street Quartet was a triumph of ensemble playing.”

The Salt Lake Tribune
“[The quartet] inhabited the works, playing with a unified sense of articulation, blend and knowledge of the music's dramatic keystones, nuanced subtleties and thrilling climaxes.”

The New York Concert Review
“The Fry Street Quartet was presented in a debut recital that spoke of precision, preparation, excitement, profound heritage, and ultimate satisfaction. This exaltation of individually superb instrumentalists showed what riches are to be had through the conjunction of forces in unity.”

The Hickory News
“The Quartet demonstrated their near-perfect technical abilities, produced a beautiful tone quality, blend, and a tight knit and sensitive ensemble delivery.”

The South Bend Tribune
“Fry Street's performance contained elegance and that wonderful chemistry that makes chamber music magical. They have a combination of musical maturity and charisma. The Fry Street Quartet has a capacity for both a lot of energy and also a lot of poetry.”

The Yellow Springs News
“The Fry Street's performance was electric, holding the audience in rapt attention at every moment.the group filled the score with an understanding and emotion rarely seen in performers so young.”

The Deseret News
“….the FSQ captured the transcendent beauty of the music with its expressive and poetic reading. They brought spirituality to their interpretation and made it a profoundly moving and utterly spellbinding experience that left the audience enthralled by its eloquence.” 

The FSQ was named Utah's "Best in State" instrumental group for 2009, 2010, and 2011.

 

Complete Reviews

    

 

The Classical Music Network | Warnings About A Most Peculiar Planet

New York
Symphony Space
02/13/2014
“Music Of Now: The Crossroads Project
Laura Kaminsky: From "Rising Tide"
Franz Joseph Haydn: String Quartet in B-flat Major "Sunrise", Op. 76, No. 4: First movement
Leos Janácek: String Quartet No. 1 "Kreutzer Sonata": Last movement

Fry Street Quartet: Robert Waters, Rebecca McFaul (Violins), Bradley Ottesen (Viola), Anne Francis Bayless (Cello)
Dr. Robert Davies (Conception/Commentary), Rebecca Allan (Painter), Lyman Whitaker (Sculptor), Garth Lenz, Lu Guang, Joel Satore (Photographer), Camille Litalien (Movement Artist)
Post performance discussion: Dr. Gavin Schmidt (deputy director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies)

After a day of sleet, rain, sheets of ice, a foot of snow, temperatures rising and falling like yo-yos, people sliding and cars colliding, I fantasized how Dr. Rob Davies would introduce last night’s unique musical/verbal exegesis about the environment and climate change.

“I was going to tell you how to save the earth,” he would say, his head dripping icicles, “but after today’s series of meteorological cataclysms, I’ve changed my mind. Let's vote which mammals, fish, trees, flowers and insects to keep for succeeding generations. But for heaven’s sake, it's time now to wipe out both the climate and the environment.

“They’re just too damned annoying.”

But no, Dr. Rob Davies, who conceived “The Crossroads Project” with composer Laura Kaminsky, and the surprising Fry Street Quartet, didn’t take the bait. Dr. Davies is part poet, part NASA scientist, an expert on the fundamental nature of light and information–and a most persuasive communicator on “climate change, energy and sustainability.” (These words from the program’s “about the artists”, for Dr. Davies is very much the artist.)

Why do I say the Fry Quartet is surprising? Perhaps it is my own ignorance, for I had never heard of them before, but in their three works (two of them truncated), they were energetic, spirited, each of them delightful soloists and, in the new work, as persuasive as Dr. Davies.

The first work was appropriately the “sunrise” movement from the Haydn quartet, taken from the soaring violin solo by Robert Waters. Quite lovely until one realizes that composer makes the sun rise four times in this movement. Was Papa Haydn playing Our Heavenly Father Haydn?

The second truncation was the magnificent Janácek finale from his “Kreutzer” quartet. This was the coda of a full 75 minutes of music interjected with Dr. Davies talk, and was appropriate indeed. For Dr. Davies had given a full history of the earth, its idiosyncrasies, its fluxing and flowing, and most of all on its inter-dependence. The finale of the ”Kreutzer” has just this kind of ebb and flow and intensity, and the Fry Quartet gave it a sound much more ecstatic than its notes would indicate.

Dr. Davies had conceived his talk under six basic titles: “H2O”, “Bios”, “Forage”, “Societas”, “Re-imagine” and “The Machine”, the first four of which Laura Kaminsky had written some very intense music. I hadn’t realized until later that each movement was a sonic picture of the talk itself, so didn’t picture the words. Rather, she had written a concentrated, emotional (sometimes agitated, sometimes more complacent) work which held its own.

But it was Dr. Davies who held the center of attention here. He was not a sermonizer, not a polemicist, not a do-gooder (in the ordinary sense of the word). And while I used the word “interject” before, I should say that his words were antiphonal with the music.With the logic of a rocket engineer (more than a physicist), he explained the reason for the crossing of music and speech (added by excellent photos) of the Crossroad Project.

First, it was a famous violinist, Albert Einstein, who had said he was inspired by music. (Dr. Davies could have added the alpha and omega of physics–Pythagoras and the String Theory, but that would have lengthened an already fairly lengthy talk). Second, that everything–everything–begins and conceivably could end with the two atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen.

From water we emerged, and from the pollution of water we could end. He spoke of our “system science”, how it isn’t Humankind which has evolved, but that we are all co-evolving with our planet. That we don’t have a single endangered species or tree or one of the hundreds of thousands of still un-discovered species. But that we are a tapestry.

And as every rug-merchant knows, every thread in a tapestry depends on every other thread. His other science cum poetry was equally engrossing, telling, evocative. Yet his basic thesis was still that we are all inter-connected. Not in ethics or philosophy or history–but in nature itself.

Granted, there was a lot to take in here. Oh, how I wish that his talk was on YouTube (perhaps it is), or even in an antiquated form of communication called “print.”

Naturally, with this talk which seamlessly used science, poetry, physics and good sense, he ended with some simple aphorisms. Simple, yet worthy., First, like Voltaire’s Candide, told to make his garden grow, we must choose one thing, and make it better. Second–and he emphasized it–that “bigger is not better”, that we should improve rather than increase.

Finally, a seemingly ordinary statement, but a revelatory one, repeated several times, “We must believe what we know.”

We can hear the stats, read the knowledge, get the sermons. But the actual belief is the only way it can work.

After these 75 minutes, there was an intermission and later discussion. I, however, was too overwhelmed not only with fact–but thinking of the coming sleet storm and ice which would not only decelerate my journey home, but make it a nighttime nightmare.

So with the opposing beliefs of wishing to save the earth and wishing to destroy yesterday’s abominable environment, I thanked the good doctor and his minstrels and began the trudge through our most peculiar planet.

Harry Rolnick

 

Reichel Recommends | DVORAK PIANO QUINTET HIGHLIGHT OF SUNDAY’S NOVA CONCERT
Posted on January 14, 2014 by Edward Reichel
NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Fry Street Quartet, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Jan. 12

Utah’s gem of a string quartet, the Fry Street Quartet, made its annual visit to the NOVA Chamber Music Series Sunday.

It’s always a pleasure hearing the FSQ play. The members of the ensemble are perceptive interpreters, wonderful musicians and remarkable technicians. They make everything they play a memorable experience.

The FSQ opened its concert with Haydn’s sunny Quartet in G major, op. 76, no. 1. The foursome captured the bright, airy character of the music with their ebullient reading. There was a lightness to their touch that made the music flow effortlessly. It was a well expressed, lyrical and absolutely engaging performance.

Their appearance Sunday also included a collaboration with pianist and NOVA artistic director Jason Hardink in Dvorak’s massive Piano Quintet in A, op. 81.

The five players gave an impassioned account that embraced the energy and romantic spirit of the music. They played with large gestures that captured the score’s sweeping lines. Their interpretation was gorgeously nuanced in its expressions, allowing them to bring out the many subtleties in the music. Their playing did full justice to the music, and this was certainly the highpoint of the concert.

In between these two works was the Utah premiere of Michael Ellison’s Quartet No. 3, Fiddlin’, a NOVA co-commission.

Much of the material Ellison uses in this work is based on American and Turkish folk idioms. It gives the piece an exotic aura that makes it interesting. It’s a multi-movement work with some of the movements extremely short; because of this it never feels as though Ellison is able to develop the material fully. And a more thoroughly consistent development of these ideas is what the work really needs. As such there is no cohesiveness within the movements and within the work as a whole.

However, the FSQ gave an admirable account, playing with conviction and a real sense of investment in the music. It was a captivating and engaging performance.

 

Review: Unified, visionary quartet brings Beethoven to life
By Robert Coleman
Special to the Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated:10/06/2008 10:17:58 PM MDT

Right here under our noses, a Utah string quartet has quietly become a major player in the international chamber music scene. The Fry Street Quartet has progressed significantly since they came to the state in 2002. Now Utah State University's quartet-in residence has taken on the monumental task of performing all of the Beethoven quartets during six concerts in two weeks - and doing so with panache.

Saturday's performance in USU's acoustically ideal Performance Hall showed the fruit of the ensemble's recent immersion into what many feel is the composer's greatest achievement - his sixteen string quartets and the "Grosse Fuge." Violinists William Fedkenheuer and Rebecca McFaul, violist Russell Fallstad and cellist Anne Francis inhabited the works, playing with a unified sense of articulation, blend and knowledge of the music's dramatic keystones, nuanced subtleties and thrilling climaxes. Their developing tonal resonance was complemented by the hall's sonically warming characteristics and an experimental sound baffle placed behind the ensemble for this performance.

Fry Street members also shared a sense of rhythmic vision as they precisely anticipated tempo variations, especially during the concert's first selection, the Quartet in C Minor, opus 18, no. 4. This selection and the following work, the first quartet Beethoven wrote, opus 18 no. 3 in D Major, already showed the composer's brilliance and hinted of the direction his later masterworks would take. Each of the Beethoven Cycle's six carefully planned concerts highlights a developmental cross-section of the composer's quartets. Saturday's featured work was Beethoven's personal favorite, opus 131 in C sharp minor. Its seven uninterrupted movements are chamber music nirvana. Fry Street mined the first movement's emotional depths, weaving a taut contrapuntal strand to its poignant conclusion. Describing the second movement's sunny opening theme, Fedkenheuer said, "I like to think of it as breakfast." But the music showed that all eggs aren't served sunny-side-up as Fry Street skillfully underscored the cloudy undercurrent just beneath the theme's surface. Fry Street crafted the opus 131 quartet in a loving, visceral way, not as a dusty museum piece. For their efforts, they received well-deserved cheers from an enthusiastic audience.

UCLA professor Robert Winter, a renowned Beethoven scholar, presented a pre-concert lecture, displaying a remarkable talent of making the complex approachable while exposing the legendary composer's humanity.

The Beethoven Cycle continues Thursday through Saturday, and is worth the trip to Logan to be part of this unique event.

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Deseret News | Fry Street Quartet shows its mastery of Beethoven
By Edward Reichel
Deseret News
Published: October 12, 2008
FRY STREET QUARTET, Performance Hall, Utah State University, Thursday through Saturday

The Fry Street Quartet once again showed its artistry as it finished Saturday what it began a week earlier — a marvelous perusal of Beethoven's complete string quartets over six concerts, an event made even more memorable by the fact that this was the first time the cycle was performed in Utah.

A decade after its founding, the group (violinists William Fedkenheuer and Rebecca McFaul; violist Russell Fallstad; and cellist Anne Francis) decided it was time to tackle what arguably is the greatest challenge facing a quartet — performing the complete Beethoven cycle, 16 quartets that span his entire creative life.

These works put players to the test in terms of interpretation, technique and musicianship. And the Fry Sreet Quartet, which is the quartet-in-residence at Utah State University where these concerts took place, made it look easy. They exhibited the highest standards of their craft both weekends. Solid technique, wonderful musicality and fabulous artistry combined to make the six concerts they played special. The Fry Street Quartet is without question to be reckoned with among today's quartets. It has arrived.

The last three concerts in the cycle consisted of op. 18, nos. 5-6; op. 59, nos. 1-2; op. 74 (Harp); op. 130; and op. 135.

The two early op. 18 quartets were played with classically proportioned lines and phrases. But the foursome also drew out the distinctly Beethovian stylistic characteristics that were beginning to manifest themselves in these pieces. Consequently, these readings were infused with a depth of emotion and romantic sentiment that gave them new meaning. The three middle period works (op. 59 and 74) were played with intensified expressions and a robustness that captured the boldness of the music wonderfully. Yet they also brought out the inherent lyricism of these quartets as well. It was a fine balancing act, but their artistry and interpretative skills are such that the Fry Street Quartet gave superbly crafted three-dimensional readings that were nuanced and sensitive to all the minute details in the scores.

This also held true for the op. 135. Beethoven's last completed quartet, the op. 135 returns to his roots in classicism, but with the expanded vocabulary and thematic material that typify his late works. The op. 135 certainly can't be mistaken for an early quartet, butneither does it conform to the ones immediately preceding it.

The foursome captured this musical dichotomy wonderfully. It was a very expansive reading and very nuanced in terms of dynamics and expression. It was delightfully lucid — seamless, eloquent and, in the slow movement, beguilingly tender and poignant. However, the gem at this past weekend's concerts was the op. 130, which the group played on both Friday and Saturday nights — first with the second finale Beethoven wrote to replace the "Grosse Fuge" ("Great Fugue") ending, and then with the original fugue movement.

The work takes on different characteristics depending on which final movement is played. The second finale, almost Mozartean in character and wit, brings the work to a lighthearted close. And the Fry Street Quartet gave it a spirited reading that was captivating and appealingly lyrical.

The "Grosse Fuge," on the other hand, puts the weight of the work as a whole on the finale, much like the thrust in Mahler's symphonies — because of its size and scope everything is directed to and focused on the last movement.

The fugue also adds gravitas to the work. There is an earnestness and vastness to this piece that transforms the op. 130 and transports it to another world. The Fry Street musicians played it marvelously. Theirs was a penetrating account — forceful, full of self assurance, bold and compelling. The fugue quite literally consumes the listener with its audacity, and the foursome's enthralling performance captured the piece's relentless drive and energy fabulously.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com © 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved

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Deseret News | FRY STREET QUARTET
FRY STREET QUARTET, Thursday through Saturday, Performance Hall, Utah State University, Logan
By Edward Reichel Deseret News Published: October 5, 2008

Quartets have always been intrigued by the challenges posed in playing the complete Beethoven quartet cycle.

The 16 quartets he wrote, along with the "Grosse Fuge," are a milestone in the genre and quite representative of his development as a composer — the early op. 18 set of six quartets are grounded in the classical period, yet point the way toward romanticism; the final five quartets (op. 127, 130, 131, 132 and 135) open a new path in terms of style, harmonic language and thematic development that clearly leads to the 20th century. And in between are the quartets from his middle period (op. 59, 74 and 95) that are as musically inventive and rich as anything one finds in Beethoven's oeuvre. All of these works present difficulties, even when taken individually. But when they're taken as a whole, they bring with them an entirely new set of challenges. They certainly test the mettle and stamina of the players, as well as their interpretative and technical skills.

And yet, ensembles are drawn to these works like bees to pollen. Quartets feed off the challenges posed in performing them in a multiconcert cycle. One needs only to look at all the recordings of the complete set to see how vital it is to a quartet to do them as a body. That's been the case for generations of quartets, and it will continue to fascinate ensembles for generations to come.

The Fry Street Quartet (William Fedkenheuer and Rebecca McFaul, violins; Russell Fallstad, viola; and Anne Francis, cello) is the latest group to tackle the set. They played the first three of their six-concert series last weekend at Utah State University, where they are the quartet-in-residence. They'll finish the cycle this coming weekend. It's rare in a place like Utah to be able to hear the complete set — normally one would have to travel to a major metropolitan area for that, so it's extremely fortunate that the FSQ is here, and that they are such a highly talented and virtuosic ensemble that they not only are up to undertaking such an immense project, but that they also can achieve such a high level of artistry and brilliance to make this a remarkable and memorable experience.

There is absolutely no doubt that the FSQ possesses the technique, musicality, artistry, virtuosity and, yes, the physical fortitude to see the project through. They are a fabulous foursome. Each brings something unique to the table, yet their individuality meshes wonderfully together — they quite literally sound as one instrument. And as they more than adequately proved last weekend, they have mastered the art of quartet playing. With this Beethoven cycle, they have arrived. The FSQ is now a quartet to be reckoned with. Programming the quartets can be tricky, but the foursome found a genial solution by including an early, middle and late quartet at each concert (with two exceptions). Doing it this way gives a remarkably lucid insight into Beethoven's maturity as a composer and clearly shows how even the op. 18 quartets, while still following classical structure and principles, have distinctly Beethovian characteristics — they contain the germinal elements that eventually gave him the musical language to create the late quartets. At last weekend's concerts, the FSQ easily captured the uniqueness of Beethoven's quartets. Their readings of the op. 18, nos. 1-4, in which they deftly expressed the youthful impetuosity, the dynamic vitality and the restless energy of the music, was as profoundly thought out and nuanced as their superb accounts of the op. 127, 131 and 132. And as to the op. 59, no. 3, the FSQ imbued their reading with exuberant vitality and drive, while the op. 95 ("Serioso") was passionate, emotional and wonderfully lyrical. However, it was in the three late quartets where the four players exhibited their greatness as an ensemble.

The Adagio of op. 127 was gorgeously crafted and played with exquisite lyricism and subtle expressiveness. The foursome made their instruments sing as they played the long fluid lines with refined elegance.

From the poignant opening fugue to the stormy finale, the FSQ's perusal of op. 131 was nothing short of breathtaking. They eloquently brought out the wonderful nuances and subtleties of expression. Their reading felt intuitive and was marvelously perceptive and insightful.

But it was the slow movement of the op. 132 that was the true highlight. One of Beethoven's most personal statements, written after he had recovered from a long illness, the music is a prayer of thanks. It is sublime in impact, and the FSQ captured the transcendent beauty of the music with its expressive and poetic reading. They brought spirituality to their interpretation and made it a profoundly moving and utterly spellbinding experience that left the audience enthralled by its eloquence.

The cycle concludes with concerts Thursday-Saturday at Performance Hall on the Utah State University campus. Call 435-797-8022 for tickets or go to csa.usu.edu.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com © 2008 Deseret News Publishing Company | All rights reserved

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Variety the spice of Fry Street
By JOSEPH DALTON, Special to the Times Union
First published: Saturday, May 6, 2006

TROY -- A sign of a fine ensemble is the ability to play music in a varietyof styles while maintaining a consistent and characteristic technique.The Fry Street Quartet did just that Friday night in a program of classic,romantic and modern works. The concert at Emma Willard School was the final presentation of the season from the Friends of Chamber Music.

Just when it felt like there's been enough Mozart for one season,the quartet opened their program with yet another tribute to the master. Yet, the Quartet in F Major, K. 590, had the usual charm plus plenty of odd diversions and dark color as well. This is late Mozart,written a year before his death at age 35, and its soulful and searching qualities point the way to romanticism.

The quartet members showed their individual and unique voices in the opening, a conversational allegro. Yet in the second movement they were practically one instrument as long melodies made of scale passages stretched seamlessly up and down through the ranges of all the instruments.

The gilded polish of the Mozart fell away when, in the concert's second half, the quartet turned to Dvorak's Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op.105. The sound was more mellow but also more noble, an appropriate match to the rather gentle writing that alternated between consoling and heroic. Still present was the quartet's fine ensemble work and transparency of registers.

In still another contrast, Ned Rorem's Quartet No. 4, which came before intermission, was pure Technicolor. Actually, Rorem based his 10 movements not on contemporary media, but on various paintings of Picasso. Yet with some sections only a minute or two long, the overall effect was more like a series of short videos than a stroll through a gallery.

First came "Minotaur," with a heavy and juicy sound, the result ofthe players incessantly digging into their strings. "Acrobat on a Ball" was fragile, hollow and always a little off-kilter. Scattershot and wide-ranging, "Basket of Flowers" had the most perplexing name relative to the writing, while "Self Portrait" was decidedly depressive, even inconsolable.

Every movement was distinct and sharply etched, yet a heartfelt Americana came through regularly. Ultimately Rorem's quartet was economical, in that no section ever went longer than warranted by the material at hand, but also profligate in its 30-minute length. It's hard to imagine the piece in betterhands than with the Fry Street Quartet.

MUSIC REVIEW
Friends of Chamber Music present Fry String Quartet
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: Kiggins Hall, Emma Willard School, Troy
Duration: Two hours
The crowd: About 150, mostly series regulars

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HAYDN STRING QUARTETS - THE FRY STREET QUARTET
New Classics review 5/06 www.new-classics.co.uk/html/chamber.html

The string quartet form was first used in the later part of the eighteenth century. Joseph Haydn’s first string quartets had five movements but he soon adopted the standard four movements form: a fast movement, a slow movement, a minuet and trio and a fast finale. Haydn, often called ‘the father of the string quartet’, sometimes played his quartets in an impromptu ensemble of which Mozart was a member. Mozart himself went on to write 26 string quartets but never quite reached Haydn’s achievement in this difficult musical genre. This outstandingly produced SACD features one of those ‘first true quartets’, Op. 9, No. 4 in D minor (written in 1770) as well as one of Haydn’s last completed quartets, the masterful Op. 77, No. 2 in F major (1799). The internationally acclaimed Fry Street Quartet consists of Jessica Guideri and Rebecca McFaul (violins), Russell Fallstad (viola) and Anne Francis (cello). They give immaculate performances of both quartets, playing with great precision and vivacity throughout. The quartet is well served by IsoMike (Isolated Microphones) technology, an experimental acoustic baffle system designed to address the interference of intrachannel sounds that otherwise can compromise fidelity. For these four-channel recordings, the microphones were suspended on four arms, separated by uniquely shaped baffles. The resulting sound is breathtaking and needs to be heard to be believed. Highly recommended. ‘The robust, young Fry Street Quartet was a triumph of ensemble playing’ - The New York Times. This disc and others by the prize-winning Fry Street Quartet are available from the website at www.frystreetquartet.com.

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Quartet gives a memorable performance
The Fry Street String Quartet's warm sound and smooth phrasing are on display Saturday night at the Woman's Club Center for the Arts.
By Susan L. Peña Reading Eagle Correspondent
October 3, 2005

The Friends of Chamber Music of Reading opened its season Saturday night at the Woman's Club Center for the Arts with a new quartet: the Fry Street String Quartet, an award-winning young ensemble that performs internationally, including a 2001 debut at Carnegie Hall.

Their warm, well-blended sound and smooth, gracious phrasing were in evidence throughout the evening, creating a memorable concert. What is unique about this group is the strength of its inner voices — second violinist Rebecca McFaul and violist Russell Fallstad, who happen to be married and are the core founding members of the quartet.

Their strength and rapport call attention to parts of the pieces that sometimes can be overlooked; thus their performance had a transparent quality that enhanced the program immensely.

First violinist Jessica Guideri had a consistently sweet tone and played most expressively. Cellist Anne Francis played with a scrumptious tone and a palpable verve.

They opened with Haydn's String Quartet in D Major, Op. 9, No. 11, an early, consummately graceful work that showed off the players' best qualities — their wonderful lightness and control of dynamics, and in the Adagio, their effortless musicality.

The evening's centerpiece was a work composed for the quartet by Thomas McFaul (who is Rebecca McFaul's uncle, and who was in attendance). Entitled "st qt: music for four parts in five untitled movements," it is a dramatic, highly engaging piece that incorporates a diversity of styles and techniques.

It opened with a dark melody over a strong, pulsing beat in the cello; much of the energy of this movement came from a breathless two-note, upward-striving figure played in tandem by the two violins.

A slashing, cackling second movement was interrupted by a lyrical, highly tonal middle section; the third movement was contrapuntal and classical in style, warm and pretty.

The fourth, adagio movement consisted of a wistful, lovely melody sensitively played by Guideri, accompanied by the second violin and viola, with ripe, fat pizzicati in the cello underneath.

The piece ended with a double fugue, skillfully written, intriguing and impeccably played.

They ended the program with Dvorak's String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105. With its slow, dramatic opening, giving way to a breathless, fervid Allegro appassionato, this piece gave the quartet a chance to emote even more, and they did not disappoint.

Their playing of the "furiant" in the second movement was appropriately stormy, eased by the pastoral middle section; the slow movement was richly expressive; and the finale was rousing.

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CDs showcase Utah musicians
By Edward Reichel
Deseret Morning News
Sunday, July 3, 2005

The Fry Street Quartet (violinists Jessica Guideri and Rebecca McFaul; violist Russell Fallstad; cellist Anne Francis) is an energetic, vibrant group that plays with passion and intensity and exhibits technical acumen and remarkable artistry. The group's interpretations are articulate and insightful.

FSQ shows its marvelous talent on its most recent release, a two-disc album featuring quartets by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ned Rorem and J. Mark Scearce. And in each case, the foursome play as if they own the music, with perceptiveness and a keen understanding of the inner workings of each piece.

The first disc consists of two works by Beethoven — the early Quartet in A major, op. 18, no. 5, and one of the composer's most sublime statements in the form, the Quartet in A minor, op. 132.

The A major is perhaps the most classical of the six works that comprise the op. 18 set. FSQ captures the classical poise and refined elegance of the music. It brings out the delightful melodicism with its expressive and lyrically crafted reading.

In the A minor Quartet, the four musicians easily capture the breadth and scope of the work with their forceful reading. Particularly notable is their interpretation of the third movement (Molto Adagio), capturing the pathos, angst and defiance of the music with sensitivity and feeling.

The second disc — musically and stylistically diverse — opens with Stravinsky's brief "Three Pieces for String Quartet." FSQ gives a succinct and lucid performance of these abstract pieces.

Rorem, on the other hand, is a shameless romantic. But even though his music is solidly grounded in the 19th century, he nevertheless has developed his own distinct language. FSQ has taken Rorem's music to heart, in particular his Fourth Quartet. Based on paintings by Picasso, this 10-movement work is an imaginative collection of vignettes. The ensemble plays with passion and intensity, capturing the work's wide range of musical impressions, from the dynamic vitality of "Acrobat on a Ball," to the contemplation of "Still Life," to the searing emotions of "Self Portrait." This is a musical tour de force and FSQ plays impressively.

The final work on the album is Scearce's String Quartet ("Y2K"). Like Rorem, Scearce is influenced by the musical and harmonic language of the 19th century. While not particularly innovative, Scearce's quartet is still emotionally driven, and the ensemble's performance convincingly captures the intensity and force of the music.

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Fry Street Quartet Has Great Promise
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Sunday performance at the cathedral was luminous and vibrantBy EDWARD REICHEL
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City, UT)
FRY STREET QUARTET, MADELEINE FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES, Cathedral of the Madeleine, Sunday.

The Fry Street Quartet is a young emerging ensemble that shows great promise and has an immense amount of talent.

Formed in 1997 in Chicago, the foursome — violinists Jessica Guideri and Rebecca McFaul, violist Russell Fallstad, cellist Anne Francis — are currently the quartet-in-residence at Utah State University .

Sunday, the quartet came to Salt Lake City for its second local concert in less than six months. First appearing here under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City, the quartet this time was invited to play in the Cathedral of the Madeleine as part of this year's Madeleine Festival.

FSQ played a wonderful program Sunday of Haydn, Britten and Dvorak, in which the four exhibited profound understanding of the music, depth of expression and stunning technical astuteness. This is certainly an ensemble to watch.

The four opened the concert with Haydn's early Quartet in D minor, op. 9, no. 4. Written within the first decade of his compositional career, the work already displays Haydn's distinctive characteristics in the thematic material and musical development. Elements of the baroque are still visible, particularly in the motoric drive of the music, but the work is clearly within classical parameters.

In the D minor Quartet, the first violin dominates the other instruments. Guideri played her part wonderfully and was given solid support by her three colleagues. The four musicians played with eloquent expressiveness, clean lines and articulate execution. The slow movement in particular was given a fluidly lyrical reading.
The Haydn was paired with Britten's Quartet No. 1 in the first half of the concert. Britten is without question one of the most significant composers of the 20 th century, writing in all genres. However, he is perhaps best known for his operas and the War Requiem. Chamber music makes up a smaller, but no less important, part of his creative output.

Of the three quartets Britten wrote, the first stems from 1941, while he was still living in the United States . It predates his most famous work, the opera “Peter Grimes,” by some four years. And the two works certainly have a great deal in common, principally in the intensity of expressions and emotional force of the music.

FSQ played the Britten with feeling, capturing the dramatic, sweeping lines, bold ideas and rich expressive palette. The four musicians' interpretation was insightful, intelligent and thoughtful. The music is uncompromising in its content, and they brought that out to the fullest.
The second half of the concert was devoted to one of Dvorak's late works, the Quartet in A flat major, op. 105, written during the same period as his magnificent Cello Concerto in B minor. This warm, sonorous work was given an impassioned reading by the group that dramatically and spectacularly brought out the romantic expressiveness with its hints of wistfulness and Slavic moodiness.

The performance was luminous, vibrant and dynamic.

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Thursday, April 08, 2004
By STEVEN BROWN
The Charlotte (NC) Observer

The Fry Street String Quartet was even more vivacious Monday in Davidson College's Tyler-Tallman Hall. With its light, fleet touch, the group filled Joseph Haydn's Quartet in F major, Op. 77, No. 2, with breezy high spirits, and it brought out everything mercurial in Claude Debussy's Quartet.

The depth of its sound made the lyricism of Haydn's "Andante" unusually compelling -- the more so since the group also glided through it with a dancer's grace. And in a quartet by present-day composer Thomas McFaul, the group savored the contrasts between neoclassical elegance and modern-day grit.

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Review: Fry Street Quartet, pianist Dichter sparkle at Logan festival opener
Friday, March 26, 2004
By ROBERT COLEMAN
Special to The Salt Lake Tribune

LOGAN -- Legendary Utah piano educator Irving Wasserman created a chamber music festival in Logan 24 years ago. The weeklong event, originally called Music West, was renamed the Wasserman Festival in honor of its founder.

Wednesday night, the festival opened with a commanding performance by the Fry Street Quartet and famed pianist Misha Dichter. The faculty quartet-in-residence at Utah State University includes violinists Jessica Guideri and Rebecca McFaul, violist Russell Fallstad and cellist Ann Francis.

Despite the Kent Concert Hall's unflattering acoustics and noisy air ducts, the ensemble blended well. Fortunately, the university is planning a new chamber music concert hall, courtesy of the Marie Eccles Cane Foundation.

The concert opened with Claude Debussy's only string quartet. Bright sonorities illuminated the opening movement. Especially strong playing from second violin and viola created exceptional balance. Cleanly articulated phrases backed by energetic pizzicato characterized the scherzo movement. Debussy intended this section to resemble Indonesian gamelan music.

Wispy phrases, like fleeting puffs of morning fog, were expressed by muted strings in the slow movement. Beauty was found in the work's profound simplicity. Musicians controlled emotional development without giving the impression of control.

The final movement began much the same as the preceding movement ended. Smooth transition led to the composition's following intensity. Great swells of passion were followed by shimmering passages of reflection.

Pianist Dichter joined the quartet for Johannes Brahms' Quintet in F Minor. Dichter substituted for an ailing Nelson Freire, avoiding a concert cancellation.

As his name suggests (Dichter is German for poet), the pianist's performance was poetry from beginning to end. Dichter was sensitive to balance but was not shy when the music called for lyric strength or technical brilliance.

His style was well suited to Brahms' quintet. A transcending melody for the piano in the trio section of the "Scherzo" was eagerly savored.
Disquietude filled the opening measures of the finale. The uneasiness foreshadowed emotional pain Brahms would express years later when he had outlived his friends.

Dichter and the quartet deftly negotiated the movement's contrasting styles. As the music built to a swirling climax, a mesmerizing theme reappeared, phoenixlike, ending the performance.

The festival continues with piano recitals by Van Cliburn Competition winner Olga Kern on Friday and Dichter on Saturday. All performances are at 7:30 p.m. in the Kent Concert Hall on the campus of Utah State University in Logan.

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Quartet masterly blends old, new
Friday, February 27, 2004
By JAMES ESTES, Special To The Daily News (FL)

The Fry Street Quartet is a young ensemble of talented, dedicated, well-trained musicians. Formed in 1997 and named after a small street in Chicago (one can only assume that Michigan and Wabash were in use) this group has impressive credentials.

Encouraged by mentor Isaac Stern, the quartet has benefited from coaching at major chamber music seminars, including a stint with the Carnegie Hall Fellows Program, and has worked with many noted teachers and performers. The result has been several Grand Prize awards, the most notable of which is the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The group's Carnegie Hall debut in 2001 was a “rave,” said the New York Concert Review.

While the ensemble seems equally at home in the classic repertoire of Mozart and Beethoven or of contemporary music, its real forte seems to be in more modern music, at least if Wednesday night's performance at the Kravis Center's Rinker Playhouse is any gauge. The program ranged from the Classic period to just last week with equal technical proficiency and musical understanding.

The concert began with a lovely performance of Mozart's String Quartet in F Major, K. 590 , also known as Quartet No. 23 . This quartet, written with King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia in mind, is a pleasant work from the last years of Mozart's life. Fry Street's performance was excellent, if not particularly distinctive.

The Florida premiere of Thomas G. McFaul's st qt: music for four parts in five movements (2003) showed the fire and enthusiasm of which these musicians are capable. McFaul is a composer whose greatest claim to fame is as a jingle writer extraordinaire. His oeuvre includes “Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow”, “Pizza Hut: Makin' it Great” and Mountain Dew's: Dewin' it Country Cool.” While jingles put food on the table, McFaul proves to be an accomplished composer and this work may well take its place in the standard repertoire for all string quartets.

While wholly original and not at all derivative, McFaul manages to touch many bases throughout the five movements. At times in the first movement, one senses it comes close to becoming a Piazzolla-like tango (cue the bandoneon) but stops just short.

The first three movements bounce from lyrical tonality to angular atonality with enough sul ponticello (a scratchy sound produced by playing near the bridge) to keep the audience from humming along. McFaul describes the piece as “a kind of musical battlefield where tonality and post-tonality meet.” Indeed, the piece is almost schizophrenic in its variety of style and approach. While this may seem off-putting, it works in a magical way. The lovely tonal sections, at time so melodic that Schubert would have been proud to call it his own, act as an antidote to the dissonant, pointillistic, angular writing that is difficult to listen to for long. The dissonance prevents the lovely tonal writing from becoming treacly.

In the end, it is a complete work that appeals to the daring listener and the conservative one as well. One can only hope that other quartets will take up this work and give it the life it deserves.

The Fry Street Quartet's performance showed its commitment to “our baby,” as second violinist Rebecca McFaul described it. They made that strongest possible case for themselves as an ensemble and this music as well.

It is hard to believe that Debussy”s String Quartet No. 1, Opus 10 (1893) is 111 years old. It sounds as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. Here, the Fry Street Quartet glistened like wet leaves in sunshine. The subtlety of dynamics, unanimity of bowing and near-perfection of pitch made this music spring to life in full form. At times beautifully harmonious, at other times whirling with undercurrents and sudden dynamic changes, this early work of Debussy is always appealing. This appropriate finale to the Fry Street's performance shows this group is one to be followed as it reaches ever higher levels of musicality.

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Fry Street Quartet concert is stimulating
Edward Reichel Deseret Morning News

THE FRY STREET QUARTET, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Thursday.

For its local debut Thursday, the Fry Street Quartet chose an eclectic but stimulating program of works by Ned Rorem and Johannes Brahms.

Mutually exclusive as the music of these two composers is, they nevertheless have much in common. Both have left distinctive works, which -- especially in Brahms' case -- are yardsticks by which other works are measured.

Rorem was represented at the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City's concert with his Fourth Quartet, and Brahms with his Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34, which the Fry Street Quartet played with pianist Eugene Albulescu. Both were individualists, and both wrote -- and in Rorem's case, he still writes -- music that doesn't necessarily fit into the accepted standards of their respective times.

A relatively young group, the group -- comprised of Jessica Guideri and Rebecca McFaul, violins; Russell Fallstad, viola; and Anne Francis, cello -- has just started its third year as quartet-in- residence at Utah State University. And the foursome's Salt Lake debut has been long overdue.

They demonstrated that they are a dynamic foursome, playing with passion and intensity, and exhibiting a finely tuned and refined ensemble form that one normally finds only among older, more established groups. The Fry Street Quartet is an ensemble to watch.

The first half of the concert featured the Rorem quartet, which was played magnificently. They recently recorded the piece, and their performance Thursday showed that they have an affinity for it. Their reading was intelligent, insightful, emotionally charged and dynamic. They played it with conviction, capturing the boldness of the music vividly, with large strokes and sweeping lines.

Rorem's Fourth Quartet, written a decade ago when the composer was 71, is a 10-movement work, with each movement (some quite brief and others quite pungent) loosely based on a Picasso painting. But this isn't Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." This is Rorem putting his musical opinion on each painting.

The eighth movement ("Self Portrait") is the heart of the work. At its core is a searing cello solo, played stunningly by Francis, around which the other instruments wove a thin, sustained texture. The effect was extremely dramatic and poignant.

The Brahms quintet took up the second half of the concert. The Fry Street Quartet and Albulescu gave an impassioned reading of the work, one that conveyed the intensity of expressions and emotional forcefulness wonderfully. Their approach was bold, self-assured and direct. Brahms' sweeping gestures were captured in their radiant playing.

Albulescu opened the concert with Haydn's Piano Sonata No. 52. His interpretation emphasized the lyrical side of the work. Pianists all too often get caught up in the bravura writing, but Albulescu wisely didn't fall into that trap. It was a cohesive performance that was perceptive and articulate.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com
Copyright © 2004 Deseret News Publishing Co.
Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved

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Fry Street Quartet Finale Offered Near Musical Perfection
May 2, 2002

Two reasons we all came to love the Fry Street Quartet: one, they exhibited near musical perfection, and two, they performed with passion. It is this second special quality that endeared us to them and helped to fill the auditorium with sold out concerts.
Their final concert last Saturday night was one with weeping, rejoicing, and many standing ovations. Jessica Guideri, the new first violinist, added a note of confidence, which brought forth a more resonant and vibrant ensemble sound. She, like the other three members, used her whole body to reflect and respond to every nuance in the music performed, thus becoming one with the music.

Of special note was the Hickory premiere of composer J. Mark Scearce's four movement string quartet (Y2K). The work was biting, angry, mournful, full of rage, and with a relentless drive. This music was based on "the impending doom cast by the New Millennium" according to Scearce, and it is filled with heavy accents, moody music that boils up into steam that quickly fades.

In his second through fourth movements, there are sorrowful moments with tear drops, sighs, and almost unbearable tensions. Exploding frustrations vented, soft, heartfelt cries then issued forth until delayed anger built by an intense repetition exploded again into vehement expostulations.

Scearce certainly succeeded in describing musically the many feelings he had about the "devolution of society." Apparently, not further "evolution" of society is forthcoming, so the next phase may be only a final return to the source of cosmic creation.

The quartet excelled in their performance of two works from the standard repertoire. Haydn's "Emperor" String Quartet and Mendelssohn's "F Minor Quartet" were given all due diligence pertaining to styles and precision, dynamic controls, nuances, and lyricism needed, especially in the second movement of the Haydn quartet with its theme that was appropriated by the Germans and recast as the patriotic hymn "Deutschland über Alles."

We come at last to a poignant moment, a farewell to friends. The German music round "To Music" sings out: "All things must perish from under the sky, music alone shall live, never to die."

The music and memories that the Fry Street Quartet leaves with us never shall die. Goodbye dear friends, and please return often as guest artists.

--
Martin Rice
From the Hickory (N.C.) News

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Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall
November 1, 2001

Consider all the string quartets that impress with rock-solid ensemble and compelling boredom; or, others so energized with the high wiring of pixies and dragons but unable to stop on a dime, or even a whole note. Then there are the elite who have coached with the illustrious dead, giving sanctimonious assurance that we shall hear Schoenberg's opus only one generation of pencil markings removed from the Master.
The Fry Street Quartet was presented in a debut recital that spoke of precision, preparation, excitement, profound heritage, and ultimate satisfaction. This exaltation of individually superb instrumentalists showed what riches are to be had through the conjunction of forces in unity. The personnel boast resumes of sterling educational and performance background. The group began in 1997 and while still winning first prizes on the competition circuit, arrived at their current residency at Hickory, North Carolina through Chamber Music America's "Rural Residencies" program.

In Haydn's Opus 76, No. 5, the world that exists between the notes was given shape by actual playing that celebrated the aural event as well. Such a rich work of blend is as a field of blossoms to swarming bees. The Fry Street Quartet churned out honey in wide areas of soaring, gold melody and chased patterns in pulsing rhythm. This late composition of Haydn is not programmed much. No warm-up trifle, it's a hunk. It doesn't give the prima soloista violinista material in which to fly off shoulders of those providing oom-pahs like the community trampoline. In this inspired essay of engaging discourse, the Fry Street Quartet gave light to the kind of expression that audiences do not generally associate with Haydn: deep, rich, full, melodic, complete, and mature.

The String Quartet No. 1 (1923) of Janacek was a contrasting second course. As with the previous Haydn, and the Beethoven to come, this is a tailored suite of wondrous craft, though its emotional range is limited to the morose. It cries the harrowing lament that shrieks and moans with Janacek's visceral grip. One is compelled to inhabit his lurid world fully or get out of the kitchen..Subtitled "The Kreutzer Sonata," its inspiration derived from Tolstoy's novella, which expands on moral quagmire that contracts to a hideous end. Janacek wraps leaden biceps around our collective neck and drags us, terrorizing us, through a score that would seem to lay bare the most despondent coves of the human heart. Janacek's effect is awesome as the music transpires. Four movements build on motives with intricate balance. There is occasion for individual sighing and mutually chordal grunts, cantabile melodies alternating with sul ponticello slashing. The Fry Street Quartet maintained remarkable ability to survey all, never under-or over-playing. There was nary a crunch to be heard at any time from any player. Those looking to find a weak violist were necessarily chagrined at Fallstad's glorious strength. His fine posture and elegance were paragons of what makes for a good violist. Violinists Tang and McFaul understand the meaning of sitting Violin I and Violin II - this afforded each the freedom to make the most of each chair. Both are brilliant players, distinct in personality and compatible in partnership. Cellist Francis, clearly not burdened with the role of caretaker, was never felt to be Torch Singer for the Forgotten Bass-line. Taking good care of foundation work never kept her from other delights. Indeed, the strong center of balance was maintained at wide angle among all players, serving as a matrix from which the music could issue. This quality must be present in some form, then developed with diligence; it can only do service in the generally healthy atmosphere of mutual respect and trust. This is precisely why we have so few great string quartets performing at any given time. The Fry Street Quartet is endowed with everything that makes for a striking and unqualified success in this arena. (Of course, substantial financial backing is crucial, too; that matter is beyond the scope of present considerations.)

The program's second half was Beethoven's "Razumovsky" Quartet, Op. 59, No. 3 in C Major. Every aspect of this work was highlighted in a blazing performance built on mutual understanding and consummate handling. A noted specialty of some of our more established quartets, this performance astonished with the perfect marriage of ageless wisdom and youthful freshness. The audience unleashed pent up satisfaction in a leaping ovation, spontaneous and well deserved.

--
Darrell Rosenbluth
The New York Concert Review

 

 

 

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Rebecca McFaulRebecca McFaulBradley OttesenAnne Francis