The Saratoga Chamber Players celebrated Saratoga ArtsFest on Sunday afternoon at Skidmore College’s Filene Recital Hall with a varied program that included a world premiere by one of its own members.
The concert began with violinists Jill Levy and Calvin Wiersma, violist Cyrus Beroukhim, and cellist Lindy Clarke performing a very clean and spirited Haydn Quartet in D Major, Op. 50, No. 6 (1787). The four movements were written in Haydn’s customary transparent lines, which provided lovely melodies mostly for the first violinist against cheery harmonies that occasional drifted into the minor tonalities.
Everything sounded very tasteful even as it all fitted into a strong structure inspired with Haydn’s sly logic. The finale was particularly unusual with the many repetitions of the same note as the beginning of the motif.
The players set spirited tempos with the finale especially boisterous. The ensemble was balanced throughout.
The SCP commissioned cellist regular Eliot Bailen to write a sextet and he obliged by using the theme of ArtsFest: “A Day in the Life of an Artist.” Bailen told the crowd his first movement was intentionally amorphous and meant to evolve through layers. The second was an ode to J.S. Bach and the finale was underscored by the drive of an artist to create. Violist Katherine Anderson and Bailen joined the other four players.
His piece did exactly what he meant it to and all of it was romantically lyrical. His first movement meandered through pastoral segments to flowing running figures, to a soaring first violin part against dramatic harder-edged lines that ended pastorally in an unresolved chord cluster.
The second was short with busy lines, a violin cadenza that Levy played with great energy against a plucked cello that segued into the finale’s lush but loud, rough-edge lines. It was like a mad hoedown with a tapping cello, bent slides and glissandos — all difficult. Energy levels were high and the piece ended with a bang. The crowd loved it.
Additional rehearsals will make the work more seamless and cleaner, which will allow more of the complexities to shine through.
The final work was Tchaikovsky’s sextet “Souvenir de Florence,” Op. 70. The orchestrally-conceived four movements are memorable for their romance, lushness, drama and exceptionally difficult parts that test any ensemble.
After a rough start, the musicians settled down half way through the first movement and began to work together. The sound was more integrated and balanced. They were passionate, focused, and played with a compelling intensity. There was drama, froth, playfulness, excellent tempos, and eloquent solos. It all ended with a breathless dash to the end, which was greeted with huge cheers and applause.