Afiara String Quartet

Mendelssohn, Schubert: String Quartets

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How appropriate it is that a group of young musicians -- in this case, the Afiara String Quartet -- should chose as the program for a premiere album compositions written by composers early in their own lives. Though each member of the quartet was born in Canada, the ensemble itself was created in 2006 at the San Francisco Conservatory. This Foghorn Classics disc features the Mendelssohn Op. 13 Quartet in A minor (composed at age 18), the Schubert C minor Quartettsatz, D. 703 (composed at age 23), and the Mendelssohn Octet for strings, Op. 20 (composed at age 16). Like the composers themselves, the Afiara Quartet members prove that youth need not mean immaturity or inexperience. Afiara's performance of the A minor quartet is nothing short of riveting. The sound and intensity is reminiscent of another Canadian ensemble: the Orford String Quartet. Each players gives a tremendous amount of energy from the dazzling first violin to the punchy cello. Despite all the enthusiasm, the group marvelously blends its sound together, and the balance is ideal from start to finish. Afiara joins its mentor, the Alexander String Quartet, for the Octet. Not surprisingly, the two groups seamlessly mesh with few clashes of intonation. Intensity and drive are the hallmarks of their performance together, yet at no point do they let the musical underpinnings escape them. They are each consummately controlled, refined musicians, and the continued career of the Afiara String Quartet should be watched with interest.

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