Steadstyle Chicago

February 2010 Music Review by Alan Bresloff







Avalon String Quartet

Many Chicagoans love the Chicago Symphony where they can enjoy the classics performed by some of the best.  They also travel up to Ravinia in Highland Park each summer and enjoy the bandshell at Millennium Park, but like me I would think that many are unaware that we have a smaller venue right near Greek Town.  The Merit School of Music located at 38 S. Peoria Street has a venue that is perfect for chamber music.  This room, which seats several hundred patrons on comfortable chairs is called the Gottlieb Hall and has wonderful sound.  On February 10th I attended a "Winter Concert" featuring the Avalon String Quartet, a smashing quartet of musicians who work out of Northern Illinois University but travel all over the world.

This concert celebrated the sounds of Russia; sounds that were written by Russian artists or inspired by them.  They began with String Quartet #2 in F Major, op.92 written by Serge Prokofiev.  Watching these musicians was like watching a team of precise athletes or actors/dancers doing a routine that makes them appear as one.  The bows they use to play the violins, viola and cello appear to be extensions of their hands as they make them move almost in perfect unison from piece to piece.  In watching their faces and eyes, one can see that they are a true team, each watching the other so that at no time do they miss one note; simply marvelous.

The four members of this troupe, Blaise Magniere, Marie Wang (violins), Cheng-Hou Lee (cello) and Anthony Devroye (viola) are as if they were one.  For the second selection, "Quartet for Violin, viola and two celli" by Anton Arensky, Ms. Wang left the stage and special guest Yehuda Hanani added his cello to the mix.  This work included variations to Tchaikovsky's works and was mind boggling. To many chamber music is something special as you are in an intimate setting, able to see the faces of the musicians as well as their hands and body language.  In a large hall, only those who pay the premium ticket price get this opportunity, yet even they do not get to experience the feeling of the musical pieces as they do with a quartet such as this.

After a short intermission, the original members of Avalon come back on the stage for "String Quartet in E minor op.59 #2  by Beethoven, magical moments in musical history.  While Beethoven was not a Russian, the work he wrote was in fact commissioned by the Russian Ambassador to Vienna asking the quartets to include the sounds of Russian Folk songs.  And if one closes their eyes, one can imagine the Russians working their fields, going home at the end of the day to their families and staring at the skies above as the day becomes night and they rest at last.  Mostly quiet, there are moments of great sound but each piece ends peacefully, until the Finale which ends on a high note.  While many people find themselves dozing as they listen to the wonderful sounds, the Finale makes sure they are prepared to give this troupe the well deserved ovation.

While this particular concert was one night only, I ask you to get your date book out and mark the date April 18 at 4 p.m. in it as that is when they return for their Spring concert in the same venue.  On this date, they will do Beethoven, H. Meltzer and Brahms and based on what I experienced tonight, you are in for a special treat.  If you are not into classical music, hearing them might just be what you need to become interested.  They are unique and bring you into the music they perform.  Their special guest for the Spring concert will be Anthony McGill on the clarinet , so there will be a different type of sound.

Tickets for this concert are $25, $10 for students and seniors.  This is a bargain and for first time classical music concert attendees, this is a smart investment.  You can order tickets by calling 1-800-838-3006 or online at (search for Avalon quartet).  For more info on the troupe,


About Alan Bresloff

Alan Bresloff, once an actor himself, has been covering the Chicago Theater Scene since 1993, first as the Theater and Arts critic for LaRaza newspaper, then with and then onto Extra Newspaper and The Epoch Times.  He also writes for ElImparcial and TeleGuia.  His reviews can also be seen on  Alan does not call himself a "critic" but a "reviewer" as he tries to educate the reader about theater itself, what is a good value, what to look for in a play or musical and more. 

"Exposure to theater is a very important part of a young person's life" he says. "Learning about the arts and culture is in fact learning about life" and he tries to explain more in his reviews than just if it is good or bad.  Even some of the poor productions have some value, he often says and he would love your feedback on shows that you have seen.  You can write him here or at