Not many people would say there is a direct correlation between science and music, but each year, when Garth Newel Music Center emerging artist fellows give a concert at the NRAO in Green Bank, the musicians prove there is a science to performing classical arrangements.
Two quartets and one trio performed as if they had spent years – not just four weeks – learning the music of composers Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn.
Performing Haydn’s String Quartet in D major, Op. 20, No. 4 were Sarah Thomas, violin; Haesol Lee, violin; Kaitlin Springer, viola; and Julia Rupp, cello.
Thomas explained the four movements of the piece and told a little about the work of Haydn.
“Haydn actually wrote a lot of string quartets,” Thomas said. “He wrote well over sixty string quartets, in comparison to Beethoven who wrote less than twenty. Thinking about Haydn writing this many is even more crazy because at that time there wasn’t really a specific string quartet he would have been writing for. It would have been mostly random people who wanted to play for fun.”
The piece the ladies played was more of a fun and gentle quartet, Thomas said.
“The first movement starts with this short little theme and he takes that, even though it’s really short, and uses parts of it, and changes some things and uses it through the whole movement to take us to some really surprising places,” she said. “The second one, it has a longer theme and he uses it over and over, but uses different textures and different kinds of embellishments.”
The third movement is a minuet which doesn’t follow the usual format of minuets and goes in strange directions, Thomas added.
“The fourth movement is our favorite,” she concluded. “We love all the movements, but this one is really fun. It’s pretty awesome.”
The next quartet – Su Yin Chan, violin; Samuel Andonian, violin; Sarah Hill, viola; and Korynne Bolt, cello – performed String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51 No. 1 by Johannes Brahms.
Hill described the piece by using unique metaphors and examples given by a mentor.
“I would ask you to indulge me in a ridiculous metaphor about this piece,” she said. “It resembles in many ways a pineapple, structurally. The outer movements, the outside of the pineapple are quite spiky – a little bit spiky, a little bit crazy, kind of wild. The inner movements are juicy and sweet.”
The piece also has four movements and breaks down, beginning with a lot of energy, to a sweet slow sound, ending with a more anguished sound.
“The first movement is pretty tempestuous,” Hill said. “It feels like there’s a lot of wild energy and, one of our dear mentors suggested to us that perhaps an apt image was that it was like being grabbed by the ponytail and yanked around the room by an alien.
“The second movement is very sweet, like a lullaby. The third starts with sort of dual melody in the first violin and viola and the question there is sort of, which is primary or whether either is. You can decide for yourselves. The fourth movement, Brahms takes some of the motives, the main motive from the first and the second movements, and reworks them in a much more decided, kind of anguished sort of way.”
The final group, a trio consisting of Andrew Burgan, violin; Benjamin Osterhouse, cello; and Joseph Williams, piano; performed Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49 by Felix Mendelssohn.
Osterhouse explained that the piece is one of Mendelssohn’s more emotionally charged and turbulent pieces.
“It was written kind of toward the end of his life,” Osterhouse said. “He lived a short life. He died at age thirty-eight and he wrote this when he was about thirty.”
The four-movement piece is somber, yet has many elegant and melodic parts adding beauty in a subtle way.
“The first movement, you’ll notice, is kind of stormy and it’s mostly not happy,” Osterhouse said. “The second movement is a nice contrast to that. It’s very, I would say, simple. It’s very beautiful and simple and elegant. It starts with just the piano by itself and when the strings come in… the chord we come in on, it’s really a striking and beautiful way to start that piece.
“The third movement is a scherzo and scherzo is very fast and light,” he continued. “The image I think of for this, is of little woodland pixies dancing on toadstools and things like that. It’s very cute. The fourth and last movement is a finale. It’s a great way to end the piece. Mendelssohn was Jewish for part of his life and I think you can hear some of those influences in the last movement. It’s kind of subtle. There’s a little bit of that in there.”
The evening culminated with a meet and greet with the musicians.
Garth Newel Music Center is located in Hot Springs, Virginia, and offers programs and concerts year-round.
Artistic director Evelyn Grau said the students in the performance were part of the annual summer program which is open to students from around the country.
“Our summer program at Garth Newel Music Center is one of the reasons our music center in Hot Springs exists,” she said. “It started around the student program and it has grown. We have these wonderful college-age music students who come to us every summer for four weeks and work on chamber music. Then they go out into communities like this and play concerts.”
For more information on Garth Newel Music Center, visit www.garthnewel.org
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org