Review: Chamber music festival off to thrilling start
If Sunday afternoon's recital at Weber Music Hall on the UMD campus was any indication, the 2010 Three Bridges International Chamber Music Festival will be a thrilling series of concerts. The second chapter in this annual event features a wide va...
If Sunday afternoon's recital at Weber Music Hall on the UMD campus was any indication, the 2010 Three Bridges International Chamber Music Festival will be a thrilling series of concerts. The second chapter in this annual event features a wide variety of musicians playing chamber music written between 1820 and 2003. Since Tuesday will be the 200th birthday of composer Robert Schumann, much of his music will be featured this week.
Indeed, Schumann was the main course Sunday, featuring his Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47 (1842). Pianist Jeannie Yu was joined by violinist Anton Miller, violist Rita Porfiris and cellist Stefan Kartman. This dazzling, toe-tapping quartet is one of the special treats of the chamber music world. A thoughtful reflection opens the saga, which gets energized quickly. The reflective moment returns in the middle, then quickly is chased away by the strongly stated melodies shared by all the players. Powerful music this was, played in a very sharing manner by all four
The second movement is a furious romp with Kartman's fingers setting the pace. In a blur of sound, everyone's pulse has been increased. Fortunately, the third movement Andante Cantabile is a song worth waiting for. The cello sings this gorgeous melody, allowing the violin, then the viola, to pick up the tune and chant it with a different timbre. Just watching Kartman, Miller and Porfiris visibly pass the glowing torch back and forth between them was stimulating. The song itself was frosting on the fudge.
With a throbbing burst of energy, the fourth movement rounded out this well-shaped quartet. Yu's fingers moved simultaneously with each of the string players in turn. The effect in Weber Hall was as clear and
bubbly as fresh champagne.
For all of us musicians, chamber music didn't die in the 19th century. It was well represented here by a piece by Twin Cities composer Libby Larsen and another by Connecticut composer/teacher Stephen Michael Gryc. Larsen's "Black Birds, Red Hills" was written in 1987 for piano, violin and viola. Each of its four movements comes with a photographic image depicting "Pedernal Hills," "Black Rock," "Red Hills and Sky" and "A Black Bird with Snow Covered Red Hills." The flint-red hills murmured through the piano and violin, with new tension added for the black rock. The violin simply hangs in the air at the end of each section. The third piece was the most lyrical, coming to a luscious close with a major chord in the strings. The last movement brought the blackbird and still allowed the violin to trail off into a wide reaching vision.
The Dances and Nocturnes (1990) by Gryc were haunting and picturesque. Three nocturnes were separated by three dances, all involving the four quartet members. A rippling piano gave way to Latin rhythms, then turned sultry as Porfiris' viola created a melody later shared by Kartman's cello. Another dance was a twisting tarantella, with a strong piano melody and a fascinating string glissando from low cello through the viola to the top of the violin. The final Nocturne was simply beautiful. The cello sang a longing melody, then passed it to the violin, and next to the viola, while the other instruments took turns creating warm, dronelike accompaniments.
All four players were constantly in sync with each other, so the concert was like a gentle intrusion on a very intimate conversation. More of these programs take place through June 17. Three Bridges 2010 has begun. Go if you get the chance.
Samuel Black is pianist with the Gichigami Trio, and reviews musical events for the News Tribune.