Viano String Quartet – April 29, 2022
As Chamber Music Kelowna continues its 42nd season the Kelowna audience had the pure joy
of hearing the Viano String Quartet, the winners of the Banff International String Quartet
Competition in 2019. The group was formed in 2015 at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in
Los Angeles and their name comes from the fact that the names of the instruments begin with
a “v” and like a piano they act as one instrument playing both melody and harmony.
The musicians are Lucy Wang and Hao Zhou, violins, Aiden Kane, viola, and Tate Zawadiuk,
(violon)cello. In the Viano the two violins share the roles of first and second violin, which seems
to strengthen both individuals and the quartet as a whole. The violist Aiden Kane turned to the
audience whenever she had thematic material and allowed her beautiful, mellow viola sound to
fill the hall.
The concert opened with Strum: Music for Strings by Jessie Montgomery, a New York
violinist/composer. It began with a bluesy pizzicato (plucking the string) performed by the very
expressive violist Aiden Kane, setting the mood for a distinctly American folk style and
abounding with energetic dance rhythms. The texture was rich and dramatic with the
musicians rapidly switching back and forth from pizzicato strumming and picking to arco (using
the bow). The Viano, with Hao Zhou taking the part of first violin in this piece, is particularly
adept at playing the rhythmic, jazzy style.
The second work of the evening, Sergei Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 “on Kabardinian
Themes” is quite relevant for our turbulant times, as it was written during a period of great
turmoil and personal suffering when Prokofiev was evacuated to a Kabardinian town following
Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. At the suggestion of the local government
Prokofiev employed rhythmic and harmonic features of the traditional Kabardino-Balkar folk
music of the region. The musicians excelled in the dramatic, energetic, angst-filled percussive
sections as well as in the melodic sections where they demonstrated a gorgeous singing tone.
The texture was clear and perfectly balanced so that the structure of the music was evident to
the audience. The cello cadenza in the the Andante molto of the third movement was very
beautifully and expressively performed by Tate Zawadiuk. The first violinist in this piece was
Lucy Wang, who played with a beautiful soaring tone and great technical prowess.
On the second half of the program the musicians performed Alexander Borodin’s Quartet # 2,
which is famous for its slow movement Notturno or night music. The two violins blended
beautifully in the lovely contrapuntal treatment of the melodic material, with Lucy Wang playing
first violin. The audience gave a standing ovation at the conclusion of the dramatic and very
aggressive Finale, earning a surprising encore, the Michael Jackson song Smooth Criminal
which the Viano musicians had arranged themselves. Hao Zhou played first violin in this
dramatic performance which again demonstrated the jazz abilities of the performers, including
a wonderful and laid-back improvisation near the end by violist Aiden Kane. The audience
rewarded the encore performance with another well-deserved standing ovation accompanied
by cheering from the crowd.
In keeping with Chamber Music Kelowna’s commitment to outreach in Kelowna, the Viano
performed at Casorso Elementary School for first, second and third graders who were a most
attentive audience with great questions, a tribute to the music teacher Laura Mireau and the
quartet for inspiring the children.
Karen Krout is a retired violinist and teacher who is fortunate enough to continue playing
chamber music with friends, truly the highlight of every week. She is inspired by the high
quality performances of internationally known musicians like the Viano String Quartet featured
by Chamber Music Kelowna and other arts organizations in Kelowna and the surrounding area.