string quartet | Worldwide
October 7, 2010
Allan Kozinn of NY Times praises Violinists Melissa White (of Harlem Quartet fame) & Elena Urioste for Carnegie Hall performance
Daniel Barry for The New York Times

The annual Carnegie Hall performances by the young musicians from the Sphinx Organization are always illuminating, not only because they are the fruits of an inspiring program, but also because the performances are invariably energetic and finely burnished. Sphinx, which is based in Detroit and was started in 1996 by Aaron P. Dworkin, a violinist, is dedicated to getting black and Hispanic students involved in classical music, mainly by training them to play and compose but also through music history courses that help produce informed listeners.

The organization provides instruments and scholarship money ($1.5 million so far). Participants in its performance classes can enter annual competitions for cash prizes and an opportunity to tour with the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra, which played at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday evening.

The ensemble, conducted by Damon Gupton, opened its program with a shimmering, lovingly shaped reading of Sibelius's Andante Festivo. All the hallmarks of a first-rate string ensemble were in place: its tone was warm and varied, it moved with unity and fluidity, and its textures were appealingly transparent. Those qualities, reconfigured to yield a trim, Classical sound, enlivened a brisk performance of Mendelssohn's youthful String Symphony No. 7.

Mr. Gupton also led a lilting account of "Coqueteos," a seductively melodic movement from Gabriela Lena Frank's "Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout," and closed the program with the hard-driven finale of Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson's Sinfonietta No. 1.

Solo and chamber performances were interspersed with the orchestral scores. The Catalyst Quartet, a new ensemble sponsored by Sphinx, played the Allegro Rustico movement from Ginastera's Quartet No. 2 with an earthy vigor that made you wonder why whoever assembles Sphinx's programs did not have them offer the complete work.

Elena Urioste and Melissa White, two superb violinists whose performances were also highlights of last year's concert, returned to collaborate on a sizzling, acidic account of Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Solo Violins (Op. 56).

A third violinist, Randall Goosby, the first-prize winner in the junior division of this year's Sphinx Competition, exerted a masterly level of control and lavished an exquisite tone on Ysaÿe's unaccompanied Sonata No. 3. Mr. Goosby does not yet have a fully developed sense of how to fill a phrase with drama, but that will come: he is only 13, and his performance won him a deserved standing ovation for its sheer virtuosity.


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