The FAQ: Keeper of the Flame, Guardian of the Grail
Expectations are one thing, but feeling the refinement, the effortless merging of power and artistry are yet another.
Thursday night at Tryon Concert Association’s presentation of the Fine Arts Quartet was the full flowering of a distinctly European influence, as Efim Bioco commented in a reception afterwards. We were the recipients of a 70 years dedication to concepts assiduously pursed by a faithful few after World War II. Theirs was a marriage toward understanding beauty in music, its idioms, its natural pathways and scintillations, the preordained though unforeseen.
They play the performances we come back to in our memory. An odd agreement rises within us. And why is that? Why do we concur when our fellows state the music makes them glad to be alive? Could it be it is the essence of music itself? Indeed! Music is memory—collective memory. So the four enter the stage and the ritual begins. From seat to seat and aisle to aisle and up into the balconies the inner voices prompt and beckon, “Give us a reason, a confirmation. With the task we know is yours, satisfy our ancient curiosity. Who are we and who are we supposed to be?”
It was lovely when a number of us met at the library five o’clock Wednesday afternoon, the day before. Lanier has been a gathering place like that over the years. In front of ours were chairs for four, Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violinists, Robert Cohen, cellist, and Juan-Miguel Hernandez, violist, who sat down in that order, their Schumann configuration. They had walked over after rehearsing at Holy Cross Episcopal Church. But, if it were the Schumann they were replicating, which makes sense, for it was most astonishing, it was also the missing man formation, because Orion Weiss, the otherworldly youth at the piano, was not in attendance. Lanier was reserved for the high priestly core.
Turns out, they were extremely affable. It’s not every day that kind of opportunity comes around. Certainly, there were many secrets to their craft. And it seemed for awhile there we were quite on our way to discovering all of them! But, perhaps, it was only a glimpse, a momentary lifting of the veil.
Enough, however, to take note of something grand. Our concert served as the occasion celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of Ralph Evans first earning a prize writing a piece for violin and piano at 13 years of age. It was the middle movement of what became “Quartet No. 1” That movement is “Andante expressivo” and may as well have been called “Andante shlemo”, being the ardent emotion of a boy cut from the same fabric as Bloch.
Yes, we are special. We got to see the guardian, the keeper, as the boy, fifty years before, being picked. As were the others.