Up Close and Personal

Two chamber music groups offer intimacy in concerts from quite different periods.

By - Nov 4th, 2014 02:50 pm
Quicksilver. Photo by Tatiana Daubek courtesy of Early Music Now.

Quicksilver. Photo by Tatiana Daubek.

Symphony orchestras boast huge forces and can produce a powerful sound. Chamber music, by contrast, is smaller scaled and can offer more intimate and spotlight subtleties in performance. Two example of this will be offered this weekend as Early Music Now and the Fine Arts Quartet offer quite different concerts.

Early Music Now tends to specialize in music written centuries ago, and up to the Baroque period. This week’s concert features Quicksilver Ensemble – a Boston/New York string ensemble that specializes in Baroque music.

Baroque music followed that of the Renaissance, when music was seen to have achieved perfection. The rules specified just the proper chords and vocal combinations to ensure a sacred experience. But at the beginning of the 17th century, composers challenged the rules. Often funded independently of the church, they explored new works that freed musician and listener. For a brief period, there were few rules. Music designed to elicit vivid emotions contrasted with the predictability of the Renaissance era. Early Baroque was a period of open experimentation.

The Quicksilver Ensemble will celebrate that era in separate concerts on Friday and Saturday evening at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. Its Friday concert is devoted to the “Stile Moderno” created by Italian composers in the early Baroque period, at a time when the robust economy and artistic ferment in the independent city-states of Northern Italy led to an explosive artistic creativity.  On Saturday, Quicksilver will broaden the repertory to composers in other Western countries responding to these new ideas in a concert entitled, “The Invention of Chamber Music: The Early Modern String Quartet.”

Quicksliver has been described as “drop dead gorgeous with a wonderful interplay of timbres,” (by Early Music America) and praised for its “impeccable, soulful playing” (New York Times). In short, these should be wonderful concerts.

Quicksilver will also perform this week for students of the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, the String Academy of Wisconsin and at an international conference being held in Milwaukee – the American Musicological Society and the Society of Music Theory.

Efrem Podgaits.

Efrem Podgaits.

Also this weekend, the Fine Arts Quartet explores contemporary music by Philip Glass and Russian composer Efrem Podgaits. After a few centuries of familiar chamber music formats, 20th century composers again dramatically challenged the rules. For Glass, musical development occurs serially over iterations distinguished by changes in tempo more than melodic line.The quartet will perform his String Quartet No 2, “Company”. Fine Arts Quartet cellist Robert Cohen observes, “You feel a very calm and special atmosphere developing through the piece. [This is ] a piece of music that while being a refreshing sorbet in a large classical program, makes a memorable impression.”

Podgaits has written a quintet featuring a string quartet in combination with a bayan – a Russian form of accordian. This recent work, “Ex Animo” (Quintet for String Quartet and Bayan, Op.184), mixes very different sound worlds in a contemporary form. Podgaits actually composed the work in 2002 for the Fine Arts Quartet. Guest performer, bayan and accordion player Maria Vlasova, will join the quartet. Trained in Moscow as a classical artist, Vlasova has recorded transcriptions for Bayan of complex works by J.S. Bach and by Oliver Messiaen.

The Fine Arts Quartet will open their concert with a string quartet by Joseph Haydn, whose many compositions in the 18th century set the pattern for chamber music for nearly two centuries. The String Quartet in G major, Opus 77, No 1 is an ideal selection for the FAQ. It features an energetic allegro opening, a virtuoso role for first violin, two presto movements and an upbeat mood throughout.

The details:

Maria Vlasova

Maria Vlasova

Early Music Now: Friday 7:30 p.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (914 E Knapp Street) Quicksilver will offer Stile Moderno works. They will perform Saturday evening 7:30 p.m in a concert entitled “The Invention of Chamber Music.” . Tickets may be purchased on-line or at 414-225-3113. Tickets are $28 – $44, but $10 – $15 for students. (A discount is available for the two events.) Parking is available in the Lincoln School for the Arts lot west of the church.

Fine Arts Quartet:  Concert Sunday 3:00 P.M. at the Zelazo Center (2419 E. Kenwood Blvd) at UW-Milwaukee. The concert will be preceded by a pre-talk at 2:00 P.M. Tickets may be purchased on-line at the Peck School of the Arts website or at the box office at (414) 229-4308. Additional program details may be found at the Friends of the Fine Arts Quartet website. Tickets are a bargain $10. On Sunday there is free parking available in the Zelazo Center lot, to the south of the building, and in the Union parking garage across Kenwood Boulevard.

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