Saratoga Chamber Music Festival artistic director André-Michel Schub told the crowd Sunday afternoon at the Spa Little Theatre that the five musicians scheduled to play were the stars of tomorrow.
Violinist Robin Scott, violist Molly Carr, cellists Andrew Janns and Ahrim Kim, and pianist Dominic Cheli were all experienced chamber musicians, mostly in their 20s, and were fantastic players, he said. With such a high recommendation, it came as no surprise that the instrumentalists proved to be highly skilled, listened to each other with sharp ears, prepared their pieces with exceptional care and showed a mature musical sensitivity. The future of chamber music is indeed in good hands.
Scott, Carr, Janns and Kim began with Anton Arensky’s rarely performed Cello Quartet in A minor. Instead of two violins, Arensky called for two cellos, which gave the dark, somber material even darker hues. Arensky used Russian Orthodox funeral chants as inspiration for his outer two movements and, because he was a great fan of Tchaikovsky, a theme from one of his “Children’s Songs” for the second movement’s theme and seven variations.
The first movement alternated from doleful, long passages to flashy, fiery sections that would erupt out of nowhere. Pacing was essential and the quartet did well. The second movement showed that Arensky had some romantic and vivid ideas because the variations, which were all short, were like vignettes of various styles. The finale also alternated between celebratory and a sweetly evocative tomb. The quartet did well to capture the interplay and the lightning fast changes.
Richard Danielpour’s “A Child’s Reliquary” (1999) was an evocative lament for a friend’s tragic loss of his young child. Danielpour gave a background on the work’s genesis and said the piece wasn’t the happiest but he hoped it brought comfort. It’s also the most frequently played of all his works, he said.
The three movements for piano trio varied from sustained strings and Brahmsian piano lines to a playful inner movement that had strident undertow against a beautiful melody in waltz time played by the piano. There was even a hint of Bernstein in the finale. The work overall was sad, but Cheli, Scott and Janns gave a loving touch to the notes.
The finale was Fauré’s marvelous Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor. The four movements flowed with lovely, sunny melodies that interwove among the players. The sound was almost a romantic rhapsody as passages swirled and soared. Even the third movement, which was nostalgic, was delicate and evocative. Scott, Carr, Janns and Cheli were ebullient. Although everyone was expert, Cheli particularly impressed with his technical mastery, musical sensibility, and his ability to maintain exceptional balances with the strings.
The crowd loved it and responded with cheers and loud applause.
The last concert on the series is on Tuesday with “Beethoven and Beyond.”