“Next Gen on the Road” refers to the latest edition of the East Carolina University Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival. As one might conclude, this festival moves about extensively and gives invaluable exposure to multitudinous “next generation” performers. Artistic Director Ara Gregorian, guest artists, East Carolina faculty members, and a host of student musicians celebrated an invigorating Saturday evening in the gracious sanctuary of Hayes Barton United Methodist Church.
When these musicians went “on the road” in this, their fifteenth-anniversary season, they did not serve up any dainty little finger sandwiches. It was substantial fare in all eight of the evening’s offerings. In general, the ample numbers before intermission featured combinations of guest musicians, faculty members, and one or more students.
Pianist Keiko Sekino provided the heavy lifting in the first three pieces. She collaborated with Gregorian and student violinist Mary Catherine Cox in a movement from the vigorous Suite for Two Violins and Piano by Moritz Moszkowski; with violinist Hye-Jin Kim, cellist Emanuel Gruber, student violist Gabriela Porter and student bassist Bryan Hansen in the fifth movement of Schubert’s monumental “Trout” Piano Quintet in A; then with featured guest violinist Xiao-Dong Wang, violist Kim, student violinist Sarah Cox, and student cellist Logan Dailey in the non-subtle Allegro movement from the Piano Quintet in C minor by Ernest von Dohnányi.
In addition to the evening’s featured guest, four other guests participated, all East Carolina music graduates studying now at other institutions. Gregorian and Wang joined three of these musicians, violinist Leonardo Perez, violist Elizabeth Upson, and cellist CJ Collins, for the opening movement of the great String Quintet in G by Brahms.
Mendelssohn contributed two works to the evening, his String Quintet No. 1, in A and his symphonic Octet in E-flat. The fourth guest, violinist Michiko Theurer, and student violist Andrew Collins joined three aforementioned “pros” in the first movement of the former. Violinist Florrie Marshall and cellist Emma Johnson, both students, participated with six guests and faculty members in an exciting (con fuoco) rendition of the stately octet’s first movement.
Some dozen or so students supplemented the group for a string orchestra arrangement of Grieg’s String Quartet No. 1. If the protracted evening had an apex, it would have to have been the finale, Grieg’s "Holberg" Suite. Performing this set of baroque dance tunes were all previous forces added to about a hundred “selected students from throughout North Carolina.” These two Grieg pieces were powerfully enhanced by the percussive double bass playing of Jack Budrow, a Michigan State professor, formerly of East Carolina (and of the NC Symphony). Here were satisfying massed strings on a spectrum all the way from the familiar and rousing Gavotte to the near-worshipful Air.
So put your hands together for Director Ara Gregorian, guests, and music faculty at East Carolina University. Thank them for what they are doing for these fine students and for the future of priceless music everywhere.