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Time for Three —Zachary DePue and Nicholas Kendall (violins) and Ranaan Meyer (double bass)—joined five Greensboro Symphony Orchestra members in Rice Toyota’s “Sitkovetsky & Friends” Chamber Series Friday night. The quintet joining the string trio included Dmitry Sitkovetsky and John Fadial (violins), Scott Rawls and Noah Hock (violas), and Beth Vanderborgh (cello).
The evening opened with a spirited reading of Felix Mendelssohn’s brilliant Octet in E-Flat.
The composer declared that the Octet was his “favorite of all my compositions . . . I had a most wonderful time in the writing of it.” And it is clear to the listener that the work exudes youthful joy mixed with a depth of emotion that belies the age of the 16-year-old Mendelssohn. It is scored for a double string quartet (4 violins, 2 violas, 2 celli).
GSO Music Director Dmitry Sitkovetsky introduced the 8 musicians, proclaiming that Friday night’s performance was a type of “world premiere,” because the second cello part would be played by Meyer on double bass. The cello parts are plenty hard for the original instrument, and must be fiendish for the bass, but Meyer wasn’t going to miss out on a chance to play some chamber music with his friends.
The first violin dominates the texture to some degree, and when Sitkovetsky wasn’t leading the show on the fiddle, his bow became a baton of sorts, urging everyone to keep the energy up. And energy was there in spades, especially in the first movement, where each musician has a major contribution to make to the texture.
The second movement Andante features a songlike section surrounding a more animated middle. The real gem of the Octet is the Scherzo where Mendelssohn’s true brilliance shows through — the character of this movement would become the composer’s trademark “elfin” quality. The tempo marking “Allegro leggierissimo” (“Briskly and as lightly as possible”) supplied the character of the piece, which is to be played “sempre pp e staccato” (“always as soft as possible and plucked”).
The Finale is full of fun and charm and even includes a few quotes from the Scherzo (obviously Mendelssohn liked it). The 8 musicians played with all the energy and verve needed to make the work come alive.
Time for Three was on their own for the second half of the recital, with most of the tunes and improvisations coming from their new CD, “3 Fervent Travelers.” The self-described “classically trained garage band” enthralled and entertained the capacity crowd in UNCG’s Recital Hall (there were even about 20 audience members seated on the stage) for close to an hour.
Works performed included “Wyoming 307,” “Forget About It,” “Ecuador,” “Hide and Seek,” “Of Time and Three Rivers,” and concluded, as most of their concerts do, with a blistering rendition of “Orange Blossom Special.” In between each work came a story and delightful conversation with the audience. All three are hams.
One common technique the band uses is to have one instrument play a quasi-improvised solo that concludes with a recurring rhythmic/melodic pattern into which the other two musicians dive. Sometimes the entire ensemble sets up a texture out of which any one of the three could take the lead.
One of the things that make Time for Three so wonderful is the rhythmic energy each musician possesses, and since much of the music is improvised, their ears are attuned to each other in a different way than some “classical” musicians are. The end result is music-making at an extremely high level with an entertaining bent that makes assures audience enjoyment.