“Standing room only.” That’s what the woman told me when I walked into Kilbourn Hall Tuesday night to see the Ying Quartet perform. Granted, it was the first concert of Eastman’s Fall 2005 concert season, and I had heard good things about this group, but I had no idea what to expect and was caught completely off guard.

From what I saw, the composition of the audience was diverse – it ranged from Eastman students yearning to hear their teachers perform, to Rochester locals eager to experience a cultural event. Unfortunately, I didn’t see many River Campus students, but I’m sure there were some.

I stood in line hoping to at least be one of the 30 lucky people to receive the bright orange standing room only tickets. I was number 22. An usher then proceeded to tell me to “stand against that wall,” by which he meant a tiny hallway.

I glanced at the program and noted that there were two Tchaikovsky four-movement pieces, “Quartet No. 2” and “Souvenir de Florence,” separated by an intermission. It was obvious that the audience was anxious to see the Quartet, yet I still had no idea what was in store for me that night.

The Quartet is comprised of four siblings – Janet Ying and Timothy Ying on violin, Dave Ying on cello and Phillip Ying on the viola. Before the performance began, Phillip came out to say a few words to the audience, filling the air with a warm humor. The concert began and I was immediately shocked by the musicians’ mastery.

The grace with which the Ying Quartet played evoked the audience’s awareness of detail, from their dynamic contrast to the clarity of their sound. One could, at any given moment, easily identify any of the four artists’ instruments, but at the same time, they produced a collective sound that was almost perfectly blended.

The flow through each movement was smooth, without a hiccup or speed bump through any tempo changes. Furthermore, they were able to alternate from playing with an energetic feel to one of infinite sadness in a way that seemed natural, while playing everything from pianissimo to forte with the same passion. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement.

After intermission, the Ying Quartet was joined by two other artists – James Dunham, viola, and Paul Katz, violin. With the addition, the sound became fuller and deeper than before.

At this point I managed to rebel against my Standing Room Only ticket and found a comfy spot on the floor, in the back of the balcony. Even from the highest point in the room, the music floated straight up, and the sound waves hit my eardrums with exactly the right beat.

I enjoyed the first half of the concert, but the second half was truly amazing. I loved every second of it. The Ying Quartet possesses not only talent but also a graceful manner with which they play, both of which were enhanced by Dunham and Katz.

It is almost impossible to describe the effect music has on anyone. If someone had asked me to write a story correlating with each movement of the two pieces that were performed at the concert, I would have had no problem.

From a butterfly caught in traffic to a warm, Sunday carriage ride, there was always an image in my mind created and narrated by the music.

To say the least, I enjoyed the concert and would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to see the Ying Quartet perform to seize the chance. Hopefully, they will be better prepared and purchase a ticket in advance.

DeRose can be reached at lderose@campustimes.org.

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