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Six ladies, members of the Rutherford Chamber Consort, held the audience at the Advent Lutheran Church spellbound for nearly half an hour, the duration of Arnold Schönberg's romantic early composition, Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night). Aptly described before the performance in personal terms as "tortured and painful" during the long first part of the work and "transformed and saved" thereafter, by the Artistic Director of the Consort, Sharon Lawrence, the work came to life for the audience. There were nods of recognition when the predicted cello solo ushered in the redemptive pacific transfiguration, after the tortured chromaticism, diminished chords over dissonant pedals, tremolos and errant pizzicati of the first half of the work. This was an emotionally charged performance and the audience, though small, clearly felt the impact.
The entire concert was entitled "Ruscelli di Primavera" (Streams in Spring) and aptly included two popular works of Franz Schubert, both bearing the title "Die Forelle" (The Trout), a piano quintet and the original song which became so popular that Schubert was urged to write a chamber work using the same theme. Schubert kept the piano accompaniment from the Lieder version and added a violin, a viola, a cello, and a double bass. And the composer lengthened the piece from the original two-minute song to a major work over 35 minutes long, enclosing five movements.
Schubert never fails to impress and inspire the auditor – such a sense of melody, such dramatic modulations (Aha! moments if there ever were such things) – and such divine lengths! Prolific beyond bounds and destined to such a short life (but creating over 1,500 works in 31 years), Schubert's works in all genres (except perhaps concerti and operas) stand out as masterpieces. It was certainly a pleasure to hear the "Trout" live, despite occasional ensemble problems, especially on attacks and entrances.
Pianist Christopher Tavernier, from Hendersonville and still in his mid-teens, stood out as an exquisite chamber player, equal to the demands of the works at hand and an excellent partner for the five musicians he joined. Except for a missed measure at the end of the third variation of the "trout" theme in the fourth movement of the quintet, he was virtually flawless in his entire half of the concert. I look forward to hearing him in a multitude of musical settings.
Immediately following the "Trout" Quintet came the "Trout" as a song, sung by the distinguished and discrete soprano Gwenn Roberts, also accompanied by Tavernier. She has a lovely pure voice with excellent intonation.
The concert opened with the charming Suite, Op. 157b, for violin, clarinet, and piano, in four movements, written by French composer Darius Milhaud in 1936. Matthew Hanna was the excellent clarinetist and Sharon Lawrence the violinist. Vintage Milhaud, the charming trio still has the flavor of jazz and perhaps of a samba from his sojourn in Brazil 20 years earlier.
Lawrence has collected excellent musicians in her Rutherford Chamber Consort. Although the publicity sources them from a plethora of orchestras and conservatories around the world, for this concert, most of the musicians hailed from the Ashville/Henderson area, a feather in the cap of Western North Carolina. Although the concerts are free to the audience and supported by some grants from the N.C. Arts Council, donations are accepted and CDs and DVDs of past performances are sold to support the Consort.
This concert will be repeated Sunday, May 24, at 5 p.m. in Asheville, NC. See the sidebar for details.