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Daniel Weiser, who recently relocated to Asheville from Vermont, brought with him connections to Classicopia, a chamber music organization based in Hanover, New Hampshire. As co-founder and artistic director of Classicopia, he is using the auspices of that non-profit organization to support chamber music activities in Asheville. The organization sponsors public concerts and salons ("house concerts") as well as planning school residencies in the Western Carolina region, just as it has sponsored in New England.
The second house concert of the first full Classicopia season in Asheville was held in the home of Joanna and Scott Best near Grove Park Golf Course. The hosts had cleared furniture out of their spacious living room to accommodate two musicians and an audience of 35 to 40 people. The program celebrated the bicentennial of Schumann and Chopin, along with the music of Brahms.
It was a totally romantic program for violoncello and pianoforte. The cellist was Kenneth Law, chair of the Performance Department at the Petrie School of Music, Converse College. Mr. Law studied with Paul Katz (of the original Cleveland Quartet) and Alan Harris, a noted chamber musician. The pianist was Daniel Weiser, who had studied with Samuel Sanders, one of the finest collaborative pianists of the late twentieth century. We could anticipate intelligent chamber music in an intimate setting, just as the three composers intended.
The program opened with Robert Schumann's stormy Fantasiestucke for Cello and Piano, Op. 73. The room acoustics were very bright, and the cellist had the disadvantage of a carpet that swallowed some of his instrument's sound rather than a bare floor that might have added resonance. Perhaps the musicians had not rehearsed enough in this room as set up for the concert; in any case the piano overwhelmed the cello in this first work. The musicians provided excellent phrasing in the first movement "Zart und mit Ausdruck" ("Subtly and Expressively") and showed great expressiveness throughout the three movements, but the balance was continually off.
The second work was Johannes Brahms' Sonata in E minor, Op. 38. In the trio of the second movement, the very Hungarian hesitations were not synchronized between the players; one had the sense that each was waiting to see how the other player was going to end the agogic interruption. In the third movement, the heavy voicing that Dr. Weiser used to emphasize the top line obscured some important inner voices. While these few details could have been improved, this was over all a very musical and satisfying performance, and has become a treasured memory for this auditor.
Following intermission, Chopin's Sonata in G minor, Op. 65 was the concluding work for the afternoon. Frederic Chopin's ventures outside the realm of solo piano and piano concerto were few, but he did write several pieces for cello and piano and their content shows a love of the cello's low register. From the opening stormy Allegro moderato to the final Tarantella, this work is moody and filled with angst, typical of late Chopin. The short third movement Largo was performed with great partnership. When the cello had the melody, the piano was supportive. When the piano took up the melody, the cello provided a low register accompaniment of stirring beauty. I could have sat and listened to this gem of a movement performed repeatedly without tiring of it.
Hearing chamber music in a chamber is delightful; it's how the composers intended us to hear these works. During this concert, I had the opportunity to scratch a dog's ears and watch snow fall outside casement windows, things that you can't do in a concert hall. Classicopia plans additional house concerts later this season; details can be obtained from the CVNC events calendar.