NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES: featuring Joseph Silverstein, Ralph Matson and other members of the Utah Symphony; Tuesday, March 9, at 8 p.m. in All Saints Episcopal Church. One performance only.
Two masterpieces of late 19th century chamber music were presented at Tuesday's NOVA concert. Less than a decade separates Tchaikovsky's "Souvenir de Florence," written in 1890, and Arnold Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night" ("Verklaerte Nacht") from 1899, but these two string sextets couldn't be further apart musically. Tchaikovsky's work looks back longingly at the 19th century, while Schoenberg's hints at the 20th.For the concert, Joseph Silverstein and Ralph Matson were joined by four colleagues from the Utah Symphony: violists Jeffrey Wagner and David Porter, and cellists Ellen Bridger and Pegsoon Whang.
The six string players opened the concert with "Transfigured Night." This is one of Schoenberg's early works. Based on a contemporary poem, the work is programmatic in nature. It's also tonal and very melodic, but the harmonic and thematic language is that of Wagner, Richard Strauss and Mahler. It's lush and expansive.
The intensity of emotions expressed in this work is incredible. The music, with its drama and raw energy, contains the angst of turn of the century Vienna. It screams out at you; it begs to be heard.
"Transfigured Night" was given a masterful interpretation by these outstanding string players. Their performance sought to bring out the more profound inner meaning of this music, and they succeeded admirably. It was magnificent.
Tchaikovsky wrote his "Souvenir de Florence" after his stay in Florence, Italy. But the only Italian element here is the tarantella-like melody that he uses in the finale of this four-movement work.
The music is typical Tchaikovsky in its melodiousness. Yet there is also an undercurrent of seriousness and urgency that you don't often find in his chamber music.
The six musicians gave a nuanced, finely tuned and expressive interpretation of this work. It was an exhilarating experience.