Along For the Ride

“The train is about to depart the station. Please stand clear of the doors.”

With those words violinist Lucy Wang of the Viano String Quartet invited us along on a train ride to some improbable places. And what a ride it was!

The immediate reference is to Kevin Lau’s work of that title. The composer himself ably filled the role of tour guide as we were able to recognize the River Dance and the rock music amidst the chugging of the train and the whistle changing pitch as it passed by. Such an inventive and entertaining piece of music!

Speaking of improbable, have you ever heard Beethoven sounding like he did in the Grosse Fuge? Thank heavens for violinist Hao Zhou, our tour guide for that epic journey. Being introduced to the two themes that fought it out for sixteen minutes gave us a pole to hang on to during the intermittent lurches and smooth rides.

What’s more, I think it is utterly improbable that musicians so young were able to perform so superbly. And they made it look easy. They were obviously having fun on the stage. There are some string quartets who never get to that level of performance.

They also knew exactly how to take an audience along for the most entertaining ride. They made sure there was a tour guide for every excursion, enriching our experience of the music. Their entrance was more than merely creative. It served a musical purpose. When I introduced the quartet, all we got was a cellist who took his bow, sat down, and began to pluck his instrument. With each member of the quartet entering as their musical line began, we received the cue to follow that line throughout the piece. Genius! In all the times I have listened to that piece in the past, I have never heard it quite that way.

And what about encoring a classical string quartet concert with Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal? Improbable, I’d say.

The ride that the Viano String Quartet took us on may have had its improbable elements, but judging from the wildly enthusiastic response, it was a real joy ride!

John Wiebe - President
The Valley Concert Society