Wednesday, November 8, 2017

A Guest Came to Dinner....

Atlanta's Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse (STP) is a wonderful venue for chamber music.  It is resonant, the musicians are on seated on a raised stage so sight lines are quite good.  And for attendees, having the chance to purchase a meal is an added benefit.  Last evening, the Atlanta Chamber Players(ACPs) returned to the STP with guest Andres Cardenes.  It was a night of sublime music making.

The first two works on the program were by Sergei Prokofiev, a great Russian composer whose works have seen a recent resurgence because of the 125th anniversary of his birth.  Anyone growing up in the 1950's and whose parents had a television likely would have heard his music; it was frequently used in the live dramas (e.g., "Studio One") that made up the new medium's "First Golden Age."  The composer's ballets, symphonies, and movie scores are most familiar and it was a good choice of the ACP to program his lesser known "Five Melodies" and "Quintet for Oboe, Clarinet, Violin and Double Bass."  The "Melodies" is a piano-violin duet, here featuring  Elizabeth Pridgen and guest violinist Andres Cardenes.  The music is beautiful, but more boldly modern than Prokofiev's works for larger ensembles.  There are passages where it is almost as if the two parts are playing different pieces- but somehow the music is still very appealing.  Cardenes is a master of the violin and his instrument was one of the sweetest sounding in recent memory.  His playing style is very fluid as if the violin was an extension of his left hand and the bow of his right arm.  Pridgen, a strong and intense player, was a great match for Cardenes.  The25-minute long "Quintet" was originally written for a post World War I chamber ballet. Its six movements contain some jazz-like sections, but it not to the degree that can be heard in Stravinsky's chamber ballet L'Histoire du Soldat, from roughly the same time period.  The addition of the oboe (played ably by Elizabeth Koch Tiscone) and the clarinet (played beautifully by Alcides Rodriguez) added to the jazz-like sound.

The final work was Schumann's stunning "Piano Quintet in E-flat major" featuring Cardenes, Helen Hwaya Kim (violin), Catherine Lynn (viola), Brad Ritchie (cello), and Pridgen.  This music is so lushly beautiful and full of wonderful melody that only a curmudgeon would dislike it.  Here again, Cardenes' playing soared; everything that made his performance so strong in the "Melodies" was even more evident here.

This was a great evening of fine music making by the ACP.  The program was nicely balanced and the venue is great.  The next concert of the ACP at the STP is April 17, 2018.  It will be titled "Octets at the Tavern."  For information, go here:  atlantachamberplayers.com


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