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Chamber season opens in stunning fashion

Group’s tempo and execution were flawless

SHARE Chamber season opens in stunning fashion

NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Utah Museum of Fine Arts Auditorium, Sunday. Additional performance tonight, 7:30 p.m., Madsen Recital Hall, Brigham Young University, free.

The NOVA Chamber Music Series under the guidance of Corbin Johnston, its new artistic director, opened the new season in stunning fashion Sunday afternoon.

Unfortunately, only a small but decidedly devoted audience witnessed a remarkable performance of chamber music by a quartet of Utah Symphony colleagues. Playing at the concert were violinists Lun Jiang and Joe Evans, violist Brant Bayless and cellist Meeka Quan. Joining them was free-lance violist Claudine Bigelow.

The quintet exhibited a level of ensemble playing that belied the fact that this was the first time these five musicians have performed together as a chamber group. Execution and articulation was flawless, as was their choice of tempos and their dynamic presentation.

Only two works were on Sunday's program, both of which are pillars in the small but significant string-quintet repertoire.

The five opened the concert with Mozart's magnificent Quintet in G minor, K. 516.

Although Mozart greatly expanded on and developed the string-quartet medium, it was the string quintets that were among the composer's most noteworthy accomplishments in the chamber repertoire. The quintets were written on a large scale and they are symphonic in their breadth and in the development of their thematic material. And the G minor Quintet is perhaps Mozart's greatest essay in the genre for its emotional impact and in the intensity of its expressive power.

The five musicians gave a forceful reading of the work, capturing the relentless drive and portraying the mood and dark-hued character of the music succinctly and dramatically.

Particularly compelling was the slow movement, one of the most beautiful to come from Mozart's pen. The sense of quiet reflection was conveyed with sensitivity and great feeling. This was certainly one of the highlights of the afternoon.

Brahms' Quintet in G major, op. 111, filled the second half of the concert. Once again, the five played with feeling and a sense of purpose. The impassioned nature of the work was fully conveyed in their interpretation. The boldness of the themes and the forceful gestures were emphasized through their vigorous and dynamic playing.

Even though the G major Quintet is a late work, it possesses little of the introspective and meditative character of Brahms' other works written in the last few years of his life. Instead, the music is clearly defiant, as if the composer feels the need to assert himself, refusing to reflect back on a long and fruitful life.

While filled with Brahms' characteristic fervor and passion, there is an energetic vitality in the op. 111 that one doesn't normally find in the late works. And that is how the five presented it. Exuberance and spirit infused their playing and brought an element of excitement to their interpretation.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com