The Franklin College Chamber Music Series at the University of Georgia sponsored a program by The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at the Hodgson Concert Hall in Athans, GA. The program included the Mozart String Quintet in C Minor, (K. 388), the Schoenberg Transfigured Night for Two Violins, Two Violas and Two Cellos, and the Brahms Sextet No 1 in B-flat Major. The Mozart was elegant and it was played impeccably. It’s not an exciting piece of music but it was a good way to start a concert on a beautiful Fall afternoon.
The Schoenberg was an entirely different matter. It was written in 1899 before the composer decided to "go modern" and explore serialism. Transfigured Night is fully in the post-Wagner romantic mode and it is one beautiful piece of music; it is thick, sentimental, rich and replete with wonderful themes. The performers were Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin), Sean Lee (violin), Richard O'Neill (viola), Mathew Lipman (viola), Keith Robinson (cello), and David Finckel (cello). These are top-notch artisits who play with both passion and accuracy. Sean Lee's violin has a rich shimmering sound. Lipman and O'Neill are two of the finest viola players I think I have ever heard. They never disappear into the mist and are full partners in the music. Keith Robinson is an incredible cellist, whose commitment and love of the music shows when he is playing. These musicians enjoy playing with each other; keep in frequent eye-contact with each other, which enhances their ensemble and entrances. I must admit to shedding a tear while immersed in the rich and wonderful late-Romantic music. The story is based on a Poem by Dehmel and deals with love that endures in spite of an out-of-relationship pregnancy. But the story isn't necessary to hear the gorgeousness of the music. This was a breathtaking performance.
And, as luck would have, the Brahms is equally rich and beautiful. The theme of the first movement is so simply, yet deeply moving that it sets the tone for the entire work. Brahms was a master of deeply felt and passionate melody and this Sextet is a prime example. Written early in the composer's career, the work is designed to break free of the mold of Beethoven. Thus is for a grouping of musicians that the master never employed, so Brahms was free to be Brahms. The same musicians were involved as in the Schoenberg with Lipman being in the outside viola chair. He was o powerful in this performance, as was Robinson.
This was a perfect concert by some of the very best musicians in an acoustically warm setting. It was so good that I thought I died and went to heaven!