The Garth Newel Music Center Emerging Artist Fellows performed at the Green Bank Observatory Thursday evening, creating a unique atmosphere in which to enjoy chamber music.
Three ensembles presented pieces by famous and beloved composers Robert Schumann, Franz Josef Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven.
The first group – a trio consisting of Cassidy Chey Goldblatt on violin, India Yeshe Gailey on cello and Wayne Ching on piano – performed Piano Trio No. 1 in D. Minor, Op. 63, by Schumann.
Goldblatt introduced the piece, stating that Schumann’s quartets and quintets are more often played, but that his trios are just as impressive.
“This is personally my first time experiencing his work, and it’s been really incredible to work with these two on it,” she said. “One of the things that’s interesting about it is that piano trios kind of have a sense of gravity and for a composer to embark on the process of writing a trio is no small task.”
In fact, Schumann waited a long time before publishing a trio. Only after his wife, Clara, published her own piano trios, did Schumann try his hand at it.
“That’s how this got started,” Goldblatt said. “This piece is really intense and emotionally charged. I think what really struck me about it is there are so many different characters and emotions happening all the time. Schumann was emotionally troubled in a lot of ways… but not all of the music is as heavy as you would think. It’s just a whole mix of ups and downs.”
The next group, a quartet – Maynie Bradley on violin, Ava Figliuzzi on violin, Kunjing Dai on viola and Hannah Lohr-Pearson on cello – performed String Quartet in G major, Op. 76, No. 1 by Haydn.
Dai introduced the piece, breaking down the emotion of each movement.
“Haydn explored many interesting and even somewhat innovational musical ideas,” she said. “During that period – especially for chamber music players – there is such a shift happening where there are larger audiences and chamber musicians beginning to play in bigger halls. Haydn just made this very powerful chord at the beginning [of this piece] to show, ‘we’re powerful, too.’
“Right after that [chord], you’ll hear our cellist Hannah play a very beautiful tune and then I’ll follow that in answer to hers and then our two violins will correspond with us,” she continued. “There will be little variations on it. There are many repetitions in this music, but it also gives us chances to do some interesting stuff in those repetitions, and we will spontaneously throw out some things at the end.”
The final group, a second quartet – Mercedes Cullen on violin, Samantha Carter on violin, Brian Anderson on viola and Jerram John on cello – performed String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 by Beethoven.
This is the shortest of all Beethoven’s quartets. John explained that the piece was unique in its time, and it continues to showcase Beethoven’s ability to experiment when he was composing music.
“In this particular work, Beethoven took a little liberty with what he wanted to do,” he said. “It’s his shortest quartet, which is rather unusual – about ten minutes shorter than most of the quartets you’ll hear. It was nicknamed ‘the serious quartet’ by Beethoven himself, which was also unusual. Most quartets that were nicknamed were always nicknamed by performers or people who heard them in the audience, but Beethoven himself wrote in the manuscript, ‘serious quartet.’”
As with many nicknames, the word ‘serious’ was up for debate in regard to what Beethoven actually meant. While the piece is meant to be taken seriously, John said it is possible Beethoven was referring to the type of listeners for whom he wrote the piece.
“I think it’s easy for musicians and concertgoers to think that serious might imply – well the mood of the piece is very serious, of course – but I also think that Beethoven may have thought that he needed to put it in there because this piece wasn’t intended to be heard by the general public. It was intended for a small group of connoisseurs or people who listened to music all the time and looked at art, and were actually incredibly knowledgeable about those things,” John said.
As for the piece itself, John said there is an interesting struggle which evokes many emotions throughout the four movements.
“The thing that strikes me most about this quartet is that it is a constant struggle between a brash and wild and almost rude character that you’ll hear immediately from the beginning with extremely intimate and vulnerable moments in other parts of the quartet,” he said. “I think that’s something that, when you listen to Beethoven, you really hear those two identities constantly battling back and forth. The most interesting thing I think about this piece is how often Beethoven does what you don’t expect.”
After the performance, a small reception was held where the musicians mingled with members of the audience.
The Garth Newel Music Center is located in Warm Springs, Virginia, and offers educational programs and professional performances open to the public. For more information, visit www.garthnewel.org