Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Chamber Music Zone Ahead

It's a new year with lots of beautiful music to play and lots of mysteries to solve. Four more guest conductor candidates (condidates? candiductors?) will bring challenging and diverse repertoire with them to be savored by performers and concert-goers alike. Then in May, the mechanisms of decision will crank to life, and we'll just have to wait and see…

2016 begins with a spate of chamber music. (Actually, it began with the Vols destroying Northwestern, but there's already plenty of press about that elsewhere). ANYWAY, this weekend's Chamber Classics concert features the Principal String Quartet performing three gems of the quartet literature, and Gabe Lefkowitz' Concertmaster Series will include Dvorak's fabulous Piano Quartet. Winter FINALLY seems to have arrived, so come on down to one of our warm downtown venues to hear these terrific works.

This Sunday at 2:30, the Principal String Quartet will play Schubert's Quartettsatz, Prokofiev's 2nd Quartet, and Brahms' 3rd Quartet in B-flat. Quartettsatz” (the last syllable is pronounced “zots”) simply means “quartet movement;” in the chamber music realm, this work is comparable to his “Unfinished Symphony.” It seems to be a piece to which Schubert could add no more. It is a darkly animated work, with the mood of his own song, Der Erlkรถnig echoing about. The Prokofiev piece that follows has melodies based on Kabardino-Balkar folk melodies from the North Caucasus. It's Prokofiev at his quirky best; considering that the premiere was delayed by a Nazi air raid, the specter of World War II is not as blatantly palpable as in the works of Shostakovich from the period. The first movement is march-like, but not martial; the second movement sandwiches two deeply lyrical passages around a perky waltz; and the finale is driven by lots of motor rhythms and features a formidable cello cadenza.

Brahms' final quartet op. 67 is nothing like his previous two, which is no surprise, given that the earlier two share an opus number (51). Its first movement Vivace's B-flat tonality and 6/8 meter are reminiscent of that of the Mozart “Hunt” Quartet that we performed at the Square Room in November. The third movement Agitato is a sublime tour de force for the viola; some violists believe it should be considered standard solo repertoire for the viola. A closing Theme and Variations halts seemingly in mid-sentence to revert to the theme of the first movement. The unusual twists and turns in all three of the works to be presented are a joy to bring off, and Gordon, Edward, Katie and I have had a blast getting to know them.

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