The Eastern Music Festival faculty presented a potpourri of musical selections Tuesday night in Dana Auditorium.
The composers (two of whom are unfamiliar to me) included W.A. Mozart (Austria, 1756-91), Francois Devienne (France, 1759-1803), Gioachino Rossini (Italy, 1792-1868) and Alexander Ernst Fesca (Germany, 1820-1849).
As Julian Schwarz, the organizer of the Tuesday evening Eastern Chamber Players concerts explained, each Tuesday would begin with a selection by Mozart. The rest of the selections on this Tuesday’s program gave different depictions of the classical era.
Jeffrey Multer (violin), Ben Geller (viola), Schwarz (cello) and Marika Bournaki (piano) gave a fine reading of Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, K. 493 (1786). Much of the work is written in a “strings versus the piano” manner. Bournaki’s facile playing captured both the elegance and subtle nuance of the harmonies. A surprising number of melodic lines were given to the string players; each took the opportunity to shine.
Devienne was the bassoon player at the Paris Opera as well as a flute professor at the Paris Conservatory. His Quartet for Bassoon and String Trio in C Major, Op. 73, No. 1 (ca. 1800) featured performers George Sakakeeny (bassoon), Uli Speth (violin), Daniel Reinker (viola) and Schwarz (cello). This work proved to be a concerto type of composition, with the bassoon as soloist and string trio as orchestra. Sakakeeny’s lovely tone was evident from beginning to end, and his playing perfectly caught the bouncy tune in the final movement. The strings played with good energy and ensemble.
What does one do when the only available musicians are two violins, a cello and a double bass? Write a String Sonata for those forces, of course, which is exactly what Rossini did in 1804, when he was only 12!
This short three-movement work featured Nigel Armstrong and Yolanda Bruno (violins), Schwarz (cello) and Leonid Finkelshteyn (double bass). While most of the melodic material was given to 1st violinist Armstrong, who played the opening cute tune with finesse, each of the other players were awarded some tasty licks of their own. Especially fiery was the playing by Bruno.
Considering that Fesca only lived for 29 years, he was incredibly prolific, writing operas, chamber music, and more than 100 songs. The performance of Septet No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 26 (1842) featured a string quartet played by Jenny Gregoire (violin), Jennifer Puckett (viola), Amy Frost-Baumgarten (cello) and Meredith Johnson (double bass). Joining the strings were oboist Randall Ellis, hornist Joy Branagan, and pianist William Wolfram.
Fesca’s writing made the most of the various timbres offered by this unusual combination of instruments. Sometimes the ensemble played in unison, like at the beginning of the first and last movements, but often the melodies were divvied up more or less equally among the players.
Wolfram’s strong and sensitive playing was particularly arresting throughout. Ellis spun out finely-wrought lines, with seemingly endless breath. Branagan’s horn playing was lovely and solid. Gregoire’s solo work was appealing as well, great intonation and energy.
So, at the end of the evening, what does one take away from the music offering? To be sure, most of it is almost immediately forgettable, but the enjoyment of hearing music composed primarily for entertainment lingers on.