The final Manning Chamber Music Series concert of the season featured violinists David Kilbride and Karen Strittmatter Galvin, violist David Marschall, and cellist Lisa Shaughnessy, all of the NC Symphony, and pianist Milton Rubén Laufer, of Peace College, in a program consisting of two works – Mozart’s Quartet No. 14 in G, K.387 (“Spring”), and Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 1 in E Flat, Op. 1/1. The Mozart is the first of six quartets dedicated to Haydn with which the young master (he was all of 26) broke free of his mentor’s more restrained style. It was apparently not easy for Mozart to do – there are said to be many revisions in the manuscripts that reflect the compositional struggles the music represented. None of this is apparent to the listeners, particularly when the “Spring” Quartet is given by such technically and musically adept players as were mustered in the Sarah Graham Kenan Recital Hall on this occasion. The work’s numerous dynamic marks seemed to have been scrupulously observed, and we were again reminded of the great benefit – for the public – of the ongoing partnership between the NCS and Peace College. That one can hear concerts of this quality for free is a boon to area music lovers. There was great intensity and incisiveness here, and aside from a few attacks that lacked complete unanimity there was little about which to complain. (Word reached us April 27 that this quartet will be encored on May 2 at Humble Pie on South Harrington Street in Raleigh – see our calendar for details.)
Part two of the program was devoted to a comparably radiant performance of Beethoven’s first published work (although of course there were many others that preceded it). This piano trio, one of a set of three, sounds more spring-like than some of the scores that quickly followed it, but there’s drama and fire there, too, and the artists – pianist Laufer, violinist Kilbride, and cellist Shaughnessy did an admirable job with it, tending the balances nicely despite the piano lid being fully raised. Here and in the Mozart, too, the fine acoustics of the hall aided and abetted the players, so even from the very back the sound was rich and full.
The audience contained more than the usual number of young people, many of whom appeared to be taking notes – this is always comforting to a working critic. There was applause after each movement of both works, too – another sure sign of newcomers but one that presenters must always welcome, for if some of these folks keep coming back, then the future of these concerts is assured.
In closing, it was good to revisit the hall after a longer absence than we had anticipated. It’s one of the gems of the capital. Its warm wood tones suggest Watson Hall at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, and there’s not a bad seat in the house, as the saying goes. The fact that it has a small organ and an excellent piano add to its appeal.