Ulysses Quartet in Greenwood Cemetery

Angel's Share Presents

By: - Jun 25, 2024

The Ulysses Quartet performed Beethoven’s final work, his string quartet in A minor, in the Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. The classical spirit of Leonard Bernstein, who is buried here atop Battle Hill, pervades the place. Programs are various and always tasteful. The setting enhances the experience.

The Quartet brings a special quality to performance.They are not talking at each other  in conventional quartet style. Neither are they cross-talking. Even when they seem to be passing around notes and phrases, musical lines talk “with” each other, drawing the audience deep into the music.  

The Quartet sits on a raised platform bathed in golden light at the end of a catacomb.Stone walls reverberate sounds that richly ricochet and echo. The space is like a cave with odd shapes to further enrich the rebounds, bouncing and lingering. The audience is immersed in awe-inspiring moments.

Christina Bouey on first violin shows off her opera-trained voice in the strings of her Stradivarius.  In the first two movements, she intertwines with her playing-mates. Rhiannon Barnerdt on second violin displays Beethoven’s dotted ideas. Cellist Grace Ho produces the smooth bass beats which often underpin an unstable musical surface. She often leads the fugues. She and the brave lone male, violist Peter Dudek, played perfectly when unison was called for.  Dudek dazzled with arpeggios and marching tunes. The abundant half-steps and rollicking rhythms send us dashing into music’s future. 

These four instrumentalists can seduce the listener with the whole-tone beauty of a Bach-like hymn and can unexpectedly end reverie with a bang. They are all magicians of texture.  

The composer uncharacteristically gave the third movement an extra-musical title:  A hymn of thanks for recovery to good health. Impresario Andrew Ousley believes in the future of classical music, although he calls one of his programs, ironically, the ‘death of classical’. Concerts like this one take place in crypts and catacombs. Yet they defy death.