Since 2014, the Brentano Quartet has been Yale’s quartet-in-residence, coaching graduate students in the Yale School of Music and performing regular concerts in the New Haven area. They gave a concert last week comprised of the Bach Prelude in F Minor from Book 2 of the Well-Tempered Clavichord, Shostakovich Quartet #11, Mendelssohn Quartet opus 80, Bruce Adolphe’s “Coiled”, and Beethoven’s Quartet opus 95 (“Serioso”). Every piece was in F minor (not the cheeriest of keys), yet the program as a whole still delivered a wide range of colors and emotions. My favorite piece they performed was the Mendelssohn. He wrote this quartet right before he died, in the wake of his beloved sister’s death. The piece suggests a deep sense of grief in certain passages, which makes a ton of sense. But what it does that is even more amazing is display the complexity of emotions that the composer has felt. It’s not just sadness that permeates the piece, it’s remorse over goals unfulfilled, it’s bliss at the thought of happy memories, it’s the realization that he won’t get to see his sister again, it’s anger that he must go on despite the loss. His pain is soft and simultaneously unrelenting, it agitates the listener and stirs them into a frenzy, and it leaves as explosively as it entered. It makes you wonder, has anything been resolved? Will the internal wrestle rage on within the staff lines of the music?
The median age of these concertgoers typically hovers around seventy-five, and their knowledge of classical music always astounds me. I’ve begun to recognize some of the regulars and love talking to them at intermission about everything from the program to the latest wave of the election cycle.
One of the loveliest surprises that Yale has to offer are the world-class performances scheduled on random weekdays. It can be difficult to find time and space to be alone in college, a place that I love because of the frequency with which you run into friends on the street, in reading rooms, in the courtyards, or at Gheav. Socializing in quiet study spaces (#sorrynotsorry) has sprinkled happiness on many a grind sesh. Whenever I’m feeling in need of a solo recharge, though, I know there’s a faculty recital or philharmonia concert for me to slip into the back row of, a place where I can let the music wash over me, and be transported to another time and place.