Chamber Series Hosts a Tarantella, Bach, and Teheran
THE EIGHTH Spoleto Festival USA chamber music concert opened Tuesday morning to a full Dock Street Theatre. It offered a diverse program, varied and complex as the compositions performed.
Opening with Saint-Saëns’ Tarantella for Flute, Clarinet and Piano in A Minor, Op.6, Tara Helen O’Connor (flute), Todd Palmer (clarinet) and Pedja Muzijevic (piano) offered up this early composition (1857) as beautifully played as could be hoped for. Composer Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) is considered a late romantic. This type of Neapolitan dance, after being bitten by a tarantula (but not literally), was popular in Italy. It is a duet for flute and clarinet with piano accompaniment and certainly tested the three musicians’ skills.
J.S. Bach wrote numerous concertos, but many of the actual autographs are long gone. It has been up to musicians, musicologists, and other composers to adapt Bach’s later versions of these missing concertos in order to reconstruct the original compositions. The Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor, BWV 1060 is one of these reconstructions from the Concerto for Two Harpsichords and Strings in C Minor, BWV 1060.
Performing this work were James Austin Smith, oboe; Daniel Phillips, violin solo; St. Lawrence String Quartet; Anthony Manzo, double bass; and Pedja Muzijevic, harpsichord. As to be expected, this was a stellar assembly that provided this three-movement work with first class interaction and discriminating taste.
For a bold change of pace, Iranian composer Hooshyar Khayam’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano was given its world premiere. Palmer (clarinet) and Stephen Prutsman (piano) presented this substantial work. Khayam could not be at the concert, so he was linked via computer from Armenia to the Dock Street Theatre to give a few program notes and hear the performance. The composer said that the composition was dedicated to the children of the streets of Teheran and with the idea of bringing people together. It was certainly modern with the employment of cluster tones, harmonic discords, and dissonance. These colorful sound-washes add up to something, but I am not sure what.
Closing the long program was child prodigy Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s Piano Quintet in E Major, Op.15. Written in 1921, the quintet—roughly 31 minutes long—is large-scale and intricate. Korngold (1897-1957), a prolific and sophisticated composer, pianist, and conductor, was popular in Vienna until Hitler’s Anchluss of Austria in 1938. Being Jewish, Korngold chose to remain in Hollywood where he had been composing scores for the movies and continued to do so.
Pianist Prutsman and the St. Lawrence Quartet, with Scott St. John taking the first violin part and Geoff Nuttall the second violin, tackled this heavy-going work. Using variations and pulling from some of his previous compositions, Korngold created a work only now coming back in favor with his other serious music, since the Nazis banned the playing of his compositions over fifty years ago.
There is one more performance of this concert Wednesday at 11 a.m. Recommended.