SPARKS FLY AT CRS OPENER - The Coast Reporter October 9, 2004

The coast Recital Society's (CRS) 2004/05 concert season opened last Sunday afternoon with an outstanding, quite unforgettable concert by the Borealis String Quartet.

Living up to their reputation as one of Canada's most brilliant young ensembles, violinists Patricia Shih and Yuel Yawney, violist Nicholas Pogrebnoy and cellist Ariel Barnes (replacing indisposed cellist Joel Stobbe) played with a vigour and intensity that kept the CRS audience spellbound. This was the Borealis' second performance for the society.

They first performed for the CRS in 2002. These fine young musicians came to the Coast fresh from a mentorship program in New York with the world famous Emerson String Quartet. In an unusual departure from established chamber music tradition, the two violinists and violist performed standing.

"We all feel that this gives us much greater freedom of expression," said Yawney.

The Borealis performed with wonderful spirit and refined, musical interpretation, moving effortlessly through a challenging program of music by Franz Josef Hadyn, Dmitri Shostakovich and Franz Schubert.

After a scintillating performance of Haydn's lovely Quartet #5, opus 64, The Lark they played the shostakovitch ,em>Quartet #4, opus 83 with a brooding intensity that well matched the composer's intent.

The program concluded with a performance of one of the greatest works in the chamber music literature: Franz Shubert's Quartet in d minor, D. 310, Death and the Maiden.

This deeply personal work, written a few months before Schubert's death at the age of 31, is suffused with a bleak vision and almost unremitting sense of foreboding. The Borealis performed it with lightning attacks, sensitive phrasing and impassioned playing. The entire audience listened intently, in absolute silence.

Unfortunately, the rapt spell woven by the Borealis in their performance of Schubert's Death and the Maiden, was interrupted just 90 seconds before the conclusion by the brutal sound of the Raven's Cry Theatre fire alarm.

The audience filed out efficiently and quietly to wait in the Raven's Cry parking lot on what, fortunately, was a brilliantly sunny October afternoon.

It took some 40 minutes for the fire department to declare it a false alarm and give the audience and musicians the all clear - by which time many in the audience had decided to call it a day. Nonetheless, some 50 patient music lovers remained and were rewarded with a memorable performance of the final movement of the Schubert quartet.

The atmosphere in the theatre had become like that of a 19th century drawing room - close and intimate, with an extraordinary feeling of communication between performers and listeners. The Borealis gave it their all. The CRS audince responded with cheers, a standing ovation and well-earned bravos.

- Frances Wainwright