Just as spring is blooming and the weather reminds us all of the summer to come, we have successfully wrapped up the 68th season of Friends of Chamber Music concerts. And what a glorious season it was!
There is still something exciting and unique about experiencing great music played live in front of you! This season we heard great string quartets (that strangely satisfying blend of two violins, viola and cello) written by classical composers Haydn and Mozart, the grandeur of middle Beethoven, works by late Romantics – and friends – Brahms and Dvořák, and twentieth century masterpieces of modernists Bartók, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Berthold Goldschmidt, and Grażyna Bacewicz. The two latter composers are not as well known to us, and I was both intrigued and appreciative of the chance to hear their music, and to enjoy that music played so beautifully. But of all these modern music works, Bartók’s fourth quartet remains the most densely written and challenging, as well as being hugely rewarding.
And Bartók’s fourth quartet produced the most notable non-musical moment of the whole season: just a couple of pages into the final movement of that monumental piece, Emerson String Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker’s prized bow snapped near the tip! After a pause, he left the stage and returned with his alternate bow, and the group began the movement again, without missing a beat or losing the intensity of their attack, concluding a brilliant performance!
And for those people who heard the celebrated Czech group the Pavel Haas Quartet in October 2015, then the 2014 Banff International String Quartet Competition winners, the Dover Quartet from the United States later that month, and the dynamic Polish/Ukrainian Szymanowski Quartet in February 2016, we found it exciting to hear the differences amongst these vital, younger ensembles. As well as hearing the more mature interpretations of the Emerson String Quartet, the Mandelring Quartett, and the Takács Quartet, all at the height of their impressive powers!
In addition to string quartets, we were treated to two piano trios (piano, violin and cello), a quartet of piano and strings, and a string sextet. Those groups brought us more music by Beethoven, Brahms and Dvořák, as well as pieces by Arensky, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Richard Strauss and Ernst von Dohnányi. Trio Shaham Erez Wallfisch animated familiar and unfamiliar music. The balance and refined expression of the Han Finckel Setzer Trio continues to impress us, deepening each time we hear them. Gilles Vonsattel led a fabulously nuanced piano quartet of carefully blended string players from the roster of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the final CMS string sextet playing works of Romantic middle European composers brought us a finely rehearsed and well-honed blend of prize-winning musicians we know and love from various groups and concerts.
After each of our four Sunday matinée concerts, members of the audience were invited to join us and the musicians in the lobby for a brief post-concert reception. I always appreciate and learn from talking to friends about their concert experiences.
In addition, the Friends of Chamber Music presented the 62nd annual Young Musicians Competition and free concert. Intriguingly, the first prize winning (and audience prize winning) senior category group played a quartet for violins by Grazyna Bacewicz.
So, after all that, we now have five months off before the fabulous live music begins all over again with the 69th season of Friends concerts!
We all hope that you will choose to subscribe to a series or purchase single tickets in order to join this circle of Friends who share a love for this great music played by great artists who create beautifully blended melodies, harmonies and rhythms – allowing us to eavesdrop on their passion, and making the sounds written in the scores come alive and dance just for us!
President, Volunteer Board of Directors
Friends of Chamber Music