Gringolts Quartet, Christophe Coin, Alice Burla
8th Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival
Boccherini / Milhaud / Ravel

Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22

5-star rating

2022-01-29 — Original posting

Ein Höhepunkt im Mizmorim Kammermusik Festival 2022 in Basel — Zusammenfassung

Das 2015 von der Klarinettistin Michal Lewkowicz gegründete Mizmorim Kammermusik Festival beleuchtet Aspekte jüdischer Musik. Prominente MusikerInnen präsentierten während 4 Tagen (20. – 23. Januar) ein breites Spektrum an Aktivitäten, von Jazz und Tanz bis zu Höhepunkten westlicher Kunstmusik. Am 8. Festival lag der Schwerpunkt auf Musik der sephardischen Diaspora.

Im Zentrum dieses Berichts vom Samstag, 22.1.2022 steht ein Konzert des Gringolts Quartett im Gare du Nord in Basel. Das Programm bestand aus drei Werken: von Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) das Streichquintett in C-dur, op.30/6, G.324, “La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid von 1780: faszinierende Musik mit der Urform der bekannten “Ritirata di Madrid”—Theater auf der Konzertbühne, in der Tat! Das zweite Cello spielte in diesem Werk der französische Cellist Christophe Coin.

Im Mittelteil erklangen die Quatre Visages für Viola und Klavier, op.238 (1943) von Darius Milhaud (1892 – 1974). Die Bratschistin des Gringolts Quartetts, Silvia Simionescu, wurde hier einfühlsam und subtil begleitet von der kanadischen Pianistin Alice Burla.

Als krönender Abschluss schließlich spielte das Gringolts Quartett von Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1973) das Streichquartett in F-dur, M.35 (1903)—ein Meisterwerk und ein Höhepunkt im Quartettrepertoire des frühen 20. Jahrhunderts.

Der Bericht streift auch die informative Podiumsdiskussion (eine Stunde vor dem Konzert), in welcher die Musikwissenschaftlerin Heidy Zimmermann (Paul Sacher-Stiftung, Basel) sich mit dem Klarinettisten Chen Halevi (anstelle des erkrankten Jascha Nemtsov) über das Thema “Musik der Sephardischen Diaspora” unterhielt.

Table of Contents


Venue, Date & TimeGare du Nord — Bahnhof für Neue Musik, Basel, 2022-01-22 18:00h / 19:00h
Series / Title8th Mizmorim Chamber Music FestivalDiáspora Sefardí
Podium Discussion / Concert “Musica Notturna
OrganizerMizmorim Chamber Music Festival
Reviews from related eventsEarlier concerts with the Gringolts Quartet
Earlier concerts featuring Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet

Mizmorim Kammermusik Festival, Logo

The Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival


Michal Lewkowicz (source:; © Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival)
Michal Lewkowicz
“Face of the Mizmorim Festival”

The Israeli clarinetist Michal Lewkowicz studied with Chen Halevi at the Trossingen Hochschule für Musik in Germany. She then moved to Basel, to continue her studies at the Musikakademie Basel, as well as at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. In addition, she is also a musicologist and did Jewish Studies at the University of Basel.

An ardent promotor of Jewish culture (music, in particular), in 2015, she founded the Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival. Today, she still is the Festival’s Artistic Director. That event has taken place every year since 2015 and proved very successful. This year’s 8th instance (2022-01-20 – 2022-01-23) featured over 1200 attendees and sold 98% of the available seats.


The name “Mizmorim” is Hebrew and refers to the biblical Psalms. The Mizmorim Festival is a classical chamber music event running over several days every January, featuring

  • a broad mix of encounters between Jewish and Western Art music. It involves numerous, renowned artists and ensembles, performing in a variety of locations, all over the city of Basel.
  • Every Festival comes with a title / motto describing its focus. This year’s theme was “Diáspora Sefardí “—the music of the Sephardi (Hispanic) Jews (see the brief introduction below).
  • Events for children (Mizmorim Kids), family concerts, promotion of young talents.
  • The Festival commissions new works and premieres these in concert.

Every second year, the Festival features a composer-in-residence. The Festivals in-between feature the Mizmorim Composition Competition. For the 2023 (9th) Festival (2023-01-19 through 2023-01-22), the third competition has been announced. The award includes a commission for a 10-minute string quartet that will be premiered by the Gringolts Quartet in the 9th Festival.

Festival Artists

Across its eight instances so far, the Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival has featured many prominent musicians and ensemble. The most central ones are Jascha Nemtsov (piano), Chen Halevi (clarinet), Jordi Savall (viola da gamba) and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI, the Doric String Quartet, more recently the Gringolts Quartet, of course Michal Lewkowicz (clarinet) herself, and many more. For details on the artists in this concert see below.

The Venue

To me, this concert brought the encounter with a new venue in Basel: Gare du Nord — Bahnhof für Neue Musik. The “Train Station for New Music” was established in the rooms of the former train station restaurant (Bahnhofbuffet) in the Badischer Bahnhof in Basel’s north (part of the German railway system, but on Swiss territory), as a venue for contemporary music. It features a concert hall in the upper floor (which I haven’t seen yet), a smaller concert venue (for audiences up to around 100 people) in the ground floor, and a lounge / bar. The pictures below are © Gare du Nord, 2020.


There were two concert events in the above venue that day: a chamber music concert at 19:00h, and a second chamber music concert (including Flamenco dance performances) at 21:00h. I was not able to attend the second one of these concerts.

In addition, the Festival featured a podium discussion (18:00h) with the topic “Music of the Diáspora Sefardí“. I’m an “outsider” to Jewish culture in general, and to the music of the Sephardi Jews in particular. Therefore, I did not plan on writing about that part of the evening and was “merely listening”. Still, I’m briefly touching on the contents of the discussion below—as much as it seemed relevant to the music that followed in the concert:

The Artists

Podium Discussion

The podium discussion was in the form of an interview. The interviewer was the musicologist Heidy Zimmermann (Curator and member of the academic staff at Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel). Heidy Zimmermann originally was to talk to the pianist and musicologist Jascha Nemtsov (*1963, see also the German Wikipedia). Jascha Nemtsov currently is professor for History of Jewish Music at the University of Music Franz Liszt in Weimar. Sadly, Jascha Nemtsov fell ill and was not able to travel to Basel for the Festival.

Luckily, one of the artists at the Festival, the clarinetist Chen Halevi (see also Wikipedia), was able to step in. He proved an excellent alternative. Halevi was born in the Negev desert in Israel and now is one of the world’s leading clarinetists. He is present on concert stages all over the world. Halevi now is professor at the Trossingen Hochschule für Musik in Germany. He has been involved with the Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival as active musician since its inception in 2015.


Gringolts Quartet

As I have written about the Gringolts Quartet (founded 2008, Zurich) several times already. I’m keeping their introduction short, by just mentioning the members and their instruments:

The Gringolts Quartet has participated in the Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival for the first time in 2019.

Christophe Coin

Christophe Coin (*1958) started studying cello in Caen, then moved to Paris, to study with André Navarra (1911 – 1988) at the Conservatoire de Paris. In Vienna, he was influenced by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929 – 2016). From 1978, he studied viola da gamba with Jordi Savall (*1941) at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. 1987, together with other members of the Concentus Musicus Wien he founded the Quatuor Mosaïques. This is a string quartet with a prominent role in the area of historically informed performances (HIP). Since 1988, Christophe Coin teaches cello and viola da gamba at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris and at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel.

Alice Burla

The Canadian pianist Alice Burla (*1996 in Toronto) started studying piano at the age of 4. She made her orchestral debut at 5. Alice Burla was one of the youngest students ever accepted to The Juilliard School. There, she studied with the Russian pianist Oxana Yablonskaya (*1938). Starting in 2013, the artist spent 4 years studying with Dmitri Bashkirov (1931 – 1921) at the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofía in Madrid. Since 2016, she continues her studies with Claudio Martínez Mehner (*1970) at the Hochschule für Musik Basel.


The Swiss music journalist and violist Annelis Berger is music editor, producer and presenter at the Swiss radio station SRF 2 Kultur. She served as moderator throughout this year’s Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival.

Setting, etc.

The concert was sold out completely. There was free seating, so getting a good seat implied getting there in time. I managed to take a seat in the top row (right-hand edge) in the main seating area.

Concert & Review

Podium Discussion “Music of the Diáspora Sefardí

As explained above, I’m not really “into” the world of Jewish music, let alone an expert. I don’t have the knowledge (and the vocabulary) to comment on this topic. So, I just listened through the discussion between Heidy Zimmermann and Chen Halevi with interest. I was curious to learn about the subject of Sephardic Music. I’m not trying to condense the discussion into this review.

The talk was actually not aiming at a specialist audience. It proved highly informative for any people with interest in the topic. I’m just trying to outline the main lines of the discussion (excluding anecdotal information). I wanted to summarize selected points, i.e., what felt like “key take home information” to me. I apologize to insiders for mentioning trivialities:


  • The term Sephardim (“Sephardi” or “Sephardic Jews”, also “Hispanic Jews”) originates from the Hebrew word “Sefarad” for “Spain”.
  • The ethnic definition of Sephardim refers to the Jews that lived on the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) up till 1492. That year, they were expelled by the Alhambra Decree of the Catholic Spanish monarch.
  • After 1492, the Sephardim fled from Spain into exile (Diáspora), to Northern Africa, Southern and Northern Europe, as well as into the Ottoman Empire and other areas. From this, Sephardic music picked up Arabic (or Greek and Balkan) influences, in the respective areas. On a larger scale, one can see the Sephardim as the Western one of the main branches of Jews. Other branches include the Ashkenazim and the Mizrahim (see Wikipedia for more information).
  • There was no tradition (or a scheme) of writing down Sephardic music, i.e., no notation. The same apparently holds true for the other ethnic branches. Melodies were handed down purely in the form of folk songs.
  • All that remains are the texts in the form of poems. With the Sephardim, these poems were in Ladino language, i.e., Judaeo-Spanish, i.e., in sort of a Spanish dialect, but written in Hebrew letters. Similarly, the Ashkenazim poems are in Yiddish, which is a kind of “enriched” German dialect, again written in Hebrew letters.

Relaying to Western Art Music

Historically, there is no notation for traditional Jewish music. Only in the 20th century, some Sephardic musicians re-discovered their folk music and re-integrated it into concerts and new compositions. Also, musicological research resulted in collections of scores of Jewish folk music. However, in the aftermath, one can also find influences in earlier Western art music. That evening, the quintet by Luigi Boccherini offered a good example for this.

The discussion featured several recorded samples of Sephardic music, from a Moroccan wedding song to modern art music. One impressive recording featured Jordi Savall and his ensemble Hespèrion XXI, with Montserrat Figueras (1942 – 2011), Jordi Savall’s late spouse, in the vocal part. To me, having listened to these samples only made Sephardic influences in Boccherini’s quintet very obvious.

Boccherini: String Quintet No.60 in C major, op.30/6, G.324, “La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid

Luigi Boccherini (source: Wikimedia / public domain)
Luigi Boccherini (source: Wikimedia / public domain)

The Composer

With close to 600 known works, the Italian/Spanish cellist (Ridolfo) Luigi Boccherini (1743 – 1805) must have been one of the most prolific composers of his time. His output ranged from keyboard works up to concertos (mostly for the cello), over 30 symphonies, stage and liturgical works, oratorios and cantatas. However, the vast majority of his compositions are chamber music: among others, there are (in approximate numbers)

  • 40 cello sonatas, 40 violin sonatas (12 are lost), duets
  • 70 string trios, 16 piano trios
  • 100 string quartets
  • 140 string quintets, 12 piano quintets, 30 quintets with wind instrument(s), 9 guitar quintets
  • 12 string sextets / divertimenti
  • 7 octets / notturni

Sadly, among all the output, most people just remember the ubiquitous Menuet from the String Quintet in E major, op.11/5, G.275. Besides this, only few works retain a certain presence in today’s concert halls. Namely, the Cello Concerto in B♭ major, G.482, and very few chamber music works. Among the latter, the Guitar Quintet No.4 in D major, G.448 (with a fandango as final movement), and the quintet performed in this concert.

The String Quintet No.60

Mizmorim Festival 2022: Annelis Berger, moderation @ Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Annelis Berger
(© Benedek Horváth)
Mizmorim Festival 2022: Annelis Berger, moderation @ Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Annelis Berger, moderation
(© Benedek Horváth)

The String Quintet (Quintettino) in C major, op.30/6, G.324, “La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid from 1780 is very special. It is more than a sequence of traditional movements. Rather, Boccherini wrote a piece of “stage theater”, describing a nightly scenery in the streets of Madrid, in five “pictures”. The movement titles are somewhat cryptic. Only the combination with the additional annotations in the score (shown here in parentheses) makes them descriptive:

  1. Introduzione: Ave Maria delle Parrocchie
    (imitando un campanello – imitando il tamburo)
  2. Minuetto dei ciechi: Allegretto
    (con mala grazia / imitando la chitarra – con asprezza)
  3. Il Rosario: Largo assai, senza rigor di Battuta – Allegro – Largo assai, come prima – Allegro
    (dolcissimo e con grazia / imitando un campanello – Violoncello I tutto sulla terza corda, imitando il fagotto)
  4. Passa calle: Allegro vivo
    (imitando la chitarra – con mala grazia)
  5. Ritirata: Maestoso
    (imitando il tamburo)

I’m adding more of a description on these “scenes” in the comments below.

Especially the last movement (Ritirata) must have been very popular at the time of the composition. In 1799, Boccherini re-used the Ritirata as final movement in two additional works. One is the Piano Quintet (2 violins, viola, cello, piano) in C major, op. (posth.) 57/6, G.418, and the second one is the Guitar Quintet (guitar, 2 violins, viola, cello) in C major, G.453. In both cases, Boccherini expanded the “Ritirata di Madrid” by a set of variations.

Gringolts Quartet & Christophe Coin @ Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival, Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival 2022: Gringolts Quartet & Christophe Coin
Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)

The Performance

Imitations have a long tradition in art music. Here, however, Boccherini didn’t just imitate through musical motifs & melodies. His annotations (see above) require string instruments to imitate church bells and a drummer. A cello is to imitate / sound like a guitar or a bassoon. And here, the Gringolts Quartet and Christophe Coin even added some “stage action”!

I. Introduzione: Ave Maria delle Parrocchie

The piece opens with three groups of three beats of a “big church bell” (imitando un campanello). Loud and dissonant pizzicato beats by the second violin, viola, and the two cellos. The effect was amazing, the sound incredibly realistic, featuring all the harmonic and non-harmonic resonances of a big bell.

Ilya Gringolts’ place was empty with this. He only entered the stage after the last bell, slowly marching towards his position in the ensemble. He performed a solo part that with the annotation “imitando il tamburo“. How does one imitate a drummer, playing the violin with a bow?? Also this was so realistic: rapid, drum beats and rolls on a single tone (c’), loud, noisy, and deliberately rough. Ilya Gringolts left no doubt that this meant the arrival of the night guard, prominent, gathering everybody’s attention. Like an official crier who was about to make a public announcement!

The effect of this introduction was beyond theatrical—it was stunning! And if there was an Ave Maria delle Parrocchie, it must have been a silent prayer in response to the military appearance of the night guard!

II. Minuetto dei ciechi: Allegretto

Nothing seems “normal” in this Quintettino! In this “Minuet of the blind”, the cellos (in unison) are supposed to be imitando la chitarra (imitating a guitar) with their chordic pizzicati. The cellists interpreted this literally, holding the instrument horizontally, on their lap—indeed like a guitar!

For the violins (also in unison), the “dance of the blind” has additional annotations. The first one is “con mala grazia“—with “bad grace”: maybe “without elegance”? Indeed, the heavy, somewhat clumsy rhythm definitely evoked a blind person’s somewhat grotesque attempt to dance a folksy Minuet. I pictured scenes from films by Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993)! In the second part, the violins even must play con asprezza—with harshness. The harshness here wasn’t so much with the articulation, but—fittingly—by loosening the intonation in the “unison”.

III. Il Rosario: Largo assai, senza rigor di Battuta – Allegro – Largo assai, come prima – Allegro

The scene alters completely in the third movement: violin I and cello I in a lovely, serene, solemn and intimate duet. It is mostly in parallel thirds and sixths, with the cello above the violin. Dolcissimo e con grazia (very sweet, with grace): an introverted rosary prayer. The second violin—imitando un campanello—now inserts short pizzicato bell calls on the empty e” string.

The Allegro is a chorale—or rather, a short piece of ornamented Gregorian chant, with all four instruments in unison.

The third segment, the bell imitation returns, this time on the viola. And the rosary prayer now is in the two violins—as harmonious, solemn and intimate as in the first segment. The first cello has the “impossible” instruction “tutto sulla terza corda, imitando il fagotto“. Imitating a bassoon? I guess one should not think of a modern bassoon, but rather of the soft, gentle sound of a baroque bassoon or dulcian. Whether that imitation was successful or not: Claudius Hermann’s playing formed a beautiful, ornamented accompaniment. A rhythmically free comment to the prayer duet in the violins.

The second, now more affirmative “chorale” segment concluded the movement in an almost joyful, confident mood.

IV. Passa calle: Allegro vivo

The fourth movement is a Passacaglia. However, Boccherini writes Passa calle—bringing back the old meaning of a “walk in a street”. The second cello (Claudius Hermann) and initially the viola performed the basso ostinato, as pizzicato throughout. Boccherini wrote the top line for both violins. However, here, Ilya Gringolts now was “playing guitar” (imitando la chitarra), doing arpeggiated pizzicati with the violin under the arm. In parallel, Anahit Kurtikyan played the same voice with the bow, as artful, rolling arpeggios.

Finally, Christophe Coin played the con mala grazia cello voice. No, not ungracefully, but as ornamented, folksy melody, playful, with beautiful agogics—in my notes, I instantly wrote “Sephardic!“. Fascinating and beautiful!

In the center of the movement, Anahit Kurtikyan performed her rolling arpeggios alone—an enthralling cadenza. That cadenza returned at the end. It now was not affirmative, but gradually retracting, finally hiding, as the tamburo (Ilya Gringolts) returns with a noisy command to silence.

V. Ritirata: Maestoso

As conclusion: the “hit piece”, enthralling and fascinating as ever! And theater, to the very end, when the musicians continued playing while slowly walking out, a procession through the artists’ entry. I particularly enjoyed that the ensemble did not try presenting this piece in shiny perfection, as polished art music. A natural piece of “stage music” in the best possible way: rhythmic, folksy, with drive—excellent!

Rating: ★★★★★

Gringolts Quartet & Christophe Coin @ Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival, Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival 2022: Gringolts Quartet & Christophe Coin
Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)

Darius Milhaud, 1923 (source: Wikimedia / public domain)
Darius Milhaud, 1923 (source: Wikimedia / public domain)

Milhaud: Quatre Visages for Viola and Piano, op.238

Composer & Work

Darius Milhaud (1892 – 1974), a member of the Groupe des Six, was born in Marseille, into a Jewish family. Wikipedia states “Darius Milhaud was very prolific and composed for a wide range of genres. His opus list ended at 443. His output ranged from opera to works for orchestra and wind ensemble, numerous concertos, chamber music, organ and piano music, works for children, choral and other vocal works, as well as incidental and film music. The Quatre Visages for viola and piano, op.238 is a composition from 1943, in four movements:

  1. La Californienne
  2. The Wisconsonian
  3. La Bruxelloise
  4. La Parisienne

Each of these movements appears to depict an “archetypal woman” from a specific geographic location. That’s of course long before today’s discourse about gender and political correctness! It does, however, remind of musical characterizations that were popular in (particularly French) baroque music. Examples for these would be harpsichord pieces by François Couperin (1668 – 1733) and Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683 – 1764). And, of course, many of the Pièces de viole from various composers of that period.

The Performance

Alice Burla performed the accompaniment to Silvia Simionescu‘s viola part on a Steinway D-274 concert grand. The lid was fully open.

I. La Californienne

From the music, it is hard to tell what kind on Californian woman the composer had in mind, back in 1943. The piece is largely subtle, gentle, with capricious moments around the climax. A beautiful, lovely dialog between calling motifs on the c and g strings and responses on the a’ string. Simple, folk tone. At the same time, Silvia Simionesco was “leaning into the melody”, very intense and expressive, but at the same time subtle. Alice Burla’s piano accompaniment was equally subtle, discreet, mellow in the tone. Was it maybe even a tad too discreet? Certainly, the piano never was in danger of oppressing the viola—despite the open lid!

II. The Wisconsonian

A Capriccio of sorts. The “face of a woman from Wisconsin” points to a playful, almost hectic character, extroverted, lively. The composition was exposing the beautiful, colorful tone, the excellent projection of Silvia Simionescu’s 1660 Gennaro viola. It almost made me smile when I realized that the instrument was more than 280 years older than the music. And yet, the instrument seemed to suit the music in an ideal way!

III. La Bruxelloise

A gentle, melancholic melody “in search of a cadence”. A reflecting, pensive, mostly earnest monolog, with commenting, illustrating accompaniment from the piano. Excellent partnership between the two musicians—and dynamically more balanced than in La Californienne.

IV. La Parisienne

The last “face” is strongly rhythmic, full of syncopes, almost up to a jazzy note. Capricious, extravagant, jolly, playful, but also with moody moments. Alice Burla once more performed in excellent partnership: not just supportive, but compassionate, circumspect, never trying to dominate.

Did Milhaud just select contrasting characters? Or, could it be that he meant to depict the four temperaments? For example: La Californienne = melancholic, The Wisconsonian = choleric, La Bruxelloise = phlegmatic, La Parisienne = sanguine? No insult intended, of course!

Rating: ★★★★½

Silvia Simionescu, viola & Alice Burla, piano @ Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival, Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival 2022: Silvia Simionescu, viola & Alice Burla, piano
@ Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)

Maurice Ravel, by Véronique Fournier-Pouyet (source: wikimedia; public domain / CC0)
Maurice Ravel, by Véronique Fournier-Pouyet (source: wikimedia; public domain / CC0)

Ravel: String Quartet in F major, M.35

Composer & Work

Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937) wrote his String Quartet in F major, M.35 in 1902/03, at age 28. This was at a time when the composer still struggled to obtain the recognition that he truly deserved. This was his first, major chamber music work. It remained his only contribution to the genre of string quartets. The work follows a standard, four-movement form, starting with a sonata movement:

  1. Allegro moderato – très doux
  2. Assez vif, très rythmé – Lent
  3. Très lent
  4. Vif et agité

Ravel cleverly brackets the composition by re-using motifs from the opening movement in the subsequent sections of the quartet.

The Performance

The concert ended with the Gringolts Quartet alone. This time, they performed in their usual “antiphonal” configuration: Ilya Gringolts — Silvia Simionescu — Claudius Herrmann — Anahit Kurtikyan. All but the cellist standing, of course.

I. Allegro moderato – très doux

The beginning felt introverted, restrained (Très doux). It was no surprise that the quartet kept this piece in their simple, natural tone. The sound was never persistently dense, tight, the sonority never aiming at polished perfection. To the contrary: the tone was often airy, transparent, gentle, careful, sometimes moving into the distance, occasionally feeling like behind a curtain. This offered a stark contrast to the expressive ff and fff climaxes.

Often, there was little or no vibrato at all. I particularly noted this with Claudius Herrmann’s cello foundation. Where there was vibrato, it was narrow, tense, but never excessive or nervous, let alone irritating or oppressive. Note that Ravel sometimes explicitly specifies “vibrato“! In all this the intonation was (virtually) flawless at all times. The often (deliberately) restrained sonority never prevented the music from covering highly expressive moments, as well as serene clarity.

II. Assez vif, très rythmé – Lent

Highly expressive, even enthralling in the initial pizzicato: full of drive and momentum. Perfect in the acoustic balance, as well as in the coordination (e.g., in the seamless pizzicato exchanges or the shared pizzicato chains). Chamber music at its best!

The Lent segments, on the other hand, were full of suspense, despite Ravel’s alienation effects through the use of mutes. Particularly in such movements, which cover a wide scope from virtuosic to “condensed” and highly expressive, the ensemble felt so coherent, like a single organism!

III. Très lent

Another movement that often uses mutes, creating an ethereal atmosphere, full of suspense. And despite this, the solos (now with vibrato) remained strongly expressive. Complete introversion alternates with dramatic, even explosive, expressive eruptions. Then again, the music retracted, leaving the rhythm “floating”, “suspended”. A sound painting in the best sense, capturing the listener’s senses and imagination!

IV. Vif et agité

Pure emotion, wild and highly virtuosic, expressive beyond esthetics! Was it just my imagination that made me think of quartets by Antonín Dvořák (1841 – 1904) and contemporaries—e.g., around (L)?

Rating: ★★★★★

Gringolts Quartet @ Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival, Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)
Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival 2022 (Diáspora Sefardí): Gringolts Quartet
@ Gare du Nord, Basel, 2022-01-22 (© Benedek Horváth)


I had very high expectations for this concert. The Gringolts Quartet is one of my all-time favorites among the string quartets. And the musicians did not disappoint. They even exceeded these expectations: a memorable concert, and certainly a highlight in the 8th Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival!


The author would like to express his gratitude to Michal Lewkowicz and the Mizmorim Chamber Music Festival for the press tickets to this evening. And for forwarding a set of press photos, all of which are © Benedek Horváth. The sources and copyrights for additional photos above are mentioned in the captions and/or the descriptions. In galleries, captions and descriptions are visible only when selecting a photo to enter single picture view.

AboutImpressum, LegalSite Policy | TestimonialsAcknowledgementsBlog Timeline
Typography, ConventionsWordPress Setup | Resources, ToolsTech/Methods/Pics/Photography

Feel free to comment — feedback is welcome!