By Tim Sawyier
Attending the Arcanto Quartet’s performance at Mandel Hall Friday night after hearing early reports of the atrocities taking place in Paris, one could not help but remember Leonard Bernstein’s response to President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, another bloody Friday in history: “This will be our response to violence: to make music more beautifully, more intensely, more devotedly than ever before.” The refinement and high caliber of the Arcanto’s performance, given under the auspices of University of Chicago Presents, suggested its members might have been heeding Bernstein’s invocation.
The program opened with three selections from Bach’s The Art of the Fugue. Bach’s manuscript is notoriously devoid of performance details. The composer did not indicate which instrument(s), if any, he intended to perform the contrapuntal studies, much less any dynamic markings or other guidelines. The Arcanto Quartet opted for a judicious less-is-more interpretative approach.