AMC did not think it possible, but the musical spirits made it possible to see another grand performance this week in the Atlanta area.
The Atlanta Chamber Players presented a concert at Spivey Hall at Clayton State University, in Morrow, GA. Spivey is a wonderful smallish hall that has superb acoustics that are especially good for smaller ensembles. The hall helped bath this concert in a brilliant glow of reverberation and warmth.
The program began with Bohuslav Martinu's "Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola." Martinu, who lived from 1890 to 1958 is one of those early 20th century composers who we do not hear enough of in American concert halls. His neo-classical style is friendly to the ears, even when spiced with a bit of dissonance. The first movement of the "Madrigals" is busy and energetic. It was played here by Helen Hwaya Kim on violin and Catherine Lynn on viola. Ms. Kim is technically brilliant, and she has a brilliant bowing technique that is accurate, even when playing such up-tempo music as this. Ms. Lynn has a very solid tone that is flattered by Spivey's acoustic. If only Atlanta symphony Hall was as supportive of the lower strings as Spivey is. The second movement of the Madrigals is marked Poco Andante. It is replete with trills and tremolos and is a bit dark and a touch foreboding, but never less than beautiful. The final movement also required Ms. Kim and Ms Lynn to use all of their technical skills. They were certainly up to the task.
The next piece was the Piano Trio in G major of Claude Debussy. This is an early conservatory work composed by a young Debussy. He was about 18 when he penned it. The score was "lost" for many years, but rediscovered in 1982. The first recorded performance was in 1982. New York Times critic Harold Schonberg said the music was "...sweet, sentimental, and sugared; it verges on the salon." AMC agrees, it is a confection filled with whipped cream, but nothing wrong with a few extra calories in one's classical music diet. One would be hard pressed to tell this is Debussy; it is romantic melodic music that only hints at what was to come later in the composer's life. It sounded to AMC like late Viennese school music, with some flashes reminiscent of Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. It was wonderful to hear, but liked whipped cream, may not be good for everyday use! This performance featured Amy Schwartz Moretti on violin; Julie Albers on cello, and Elizabeth Pridgen on piano. Ms. Moretti is in firm control of her instrument; she has a big bold tone when required and when subtlety is needed she provides it in full measure. Ms. Albers is an astounding cellist. Her instrument has a big sound that ensures that the cello part will not be hidden from hearing. Ms. Pridgen is always superb.
The final piece was Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor. This is one of the most frequently heard compositions in the chamber music repertoire. The second movement is a study in Brahms' ability to write a gorgeous melody and develop it it ways to keep it fresh and interesting throughout the movement. The first movement is almost like a fanfare announcing the piece. It requires great volumes of sound characterized by Brahms' thick compositional style. The third movement asserts itself as another example of Brahm's ability to make a quintet sound like a full orchestra. The fourth movement is passionate and vigorous. This piece can easily get out of hand, given its sometimes bombastic character. It demands that the players hear each other and never loose sight of the need to play as an ensemble. The Atlanta Chamber Players were wonderful. This piece showed the strength of Ms. Moretti's violin playing. She is very animated when she plays, both to provide cuest to her colleagues but also to provide accent to the music. She is absolutely first-rate. Her compatriots were equally skillful, but again Ms. Albers provided an absolutely wonderful cello sound.
This was near perfect program played in near perfect style. It is too bad than only about 75 to 80 people were attendance. This was chamber music at its finest, programmed in a clever way, using both familiar and not-so-familiar works. Congratulations to Elizabeth Pridgen, the new ACP Artistic Director, for not only this creative programming but for her efforts to provide first-rate performances.
Here is a version of the Brahms Quintet: