Thursday, June 6, 2013

A wake up call from Mendelssohn

Posted by Jeffrey Day on Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 3:21 PM

This morning (Thursday, June 6) was chamber music concert number nine for me. In my week in review, I noted that my ears had maybe become a little calloused from so much music.

The Friday concert refreshed my ears. The performance of Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in E Minor, Op. 44 No. 2 by the St. Lawrence Quartet brought back the excitement and joy I’d had hearing the Schubert String Quartet at the first concert and the Piano Trio by Chausson at the third. I go to a lot of concerts outside Spoleto by some very good players, but it’s been a while since I’ve felt this level of connection and joy at a concert.

The Mendelssohn was supposed to close the concert, but host Geoff Nuttall said he was afraid it would sent folks out for lunch angry and depressed.

“It will leave you devastated,” he warned.

The piece left me elated.

OK, enough blubbering. And right now a recording of the Schubert from last week is on the radio, so I may start up again.

The quartet was sandwiched between two bright and upbeat pieces written about 300 years apart starting with one of Francois Couperin’s Concerts Royal for flute, oboe, bassoon violin, viola, and finishing with a Sextet (oboe, clarinet, viola, violin, bass, and piano) by the young composer Guillaume Connesson. (The Connesson reminded me very much of Philip Glass but with a sense of humor, although Connesson also cites James Brown — as in the Godfather of Soul — but I didn’t hear it.

“I’d never heard of Connesson,” Nuttall said, “but asked the group if they were up for doing a totally unknown, really hard piece — and of course they were.”

Other chamber tidbits:

A couple of days ago I asked Nuttall why there were so many duos on the series this year. Nuttall said he hadn’t even been aware of it until I pointed it out. This year there are 11 duos and I never remember so many. Even within the duo format they’ve been very diverse — marimba and cello, two violins, flute and oboe, violin and piano, all sorts of styles and written over a period from the early 1800s to 1999.

As good as the Brentano Quartet was during the first week of the festival, as Nuttall has said, the Brentano and St. Lawrence are “two completely different animals.” Today I realized how much I’d missed St. Lawrence.

I have resisted talking about the clothing worn by the performers, although I’m interested in clothes, the women in the chamber series often have some pretty cool gowns, and Nuttall is quite the clothes horse as well.

But the dress violinist Livia Sohn was wearing Thursday morning really woke me up. Black, covered in tiny glittery things and shaped pretty much like her, and a mermaid’s, body.

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