Each summer, discoveries and experiments at the Green Bank Observatory are put aside for one evening and music reigns supreme as members of the Garth Newel Music Center Emerging Artist Fellowship provide a free concert for the public.
Last week, two quartets and a trio of violinists, violists, cellists and a pianist played selections by three great composers – Franz Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven and Maurice Ravel.
Prior to each performance, a member from each group introduced the piece they would play and gave a brief description of the music or the composer.
A quartet – Anna Bishop, Alexander Hardan, Katharine Dryden and Kamyron Williams – performed the first two movements of String Quartet in C Major, Opus 20, Number 2 by Haydn.
“This piece actually paved the way for the next piece that you’re going to hear – the Beethoven quartet – and for that reason, I think it’s really exciting that we’re presenting them to you in this order,” Dryden said. “Haydn is considered the father of the string quartet, not because he created the instrumentation you see on stage today, but because he so vastly expanded the possibilities for what could be written for these instruments.”
Dryden added that Haydn’s quartets were so important that several composers, including Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Johannes Brahms had annotated scores of the quartets and were inspired to write their own.
The second quartet – Jenny Li, Bartholomew Shields, Kayla Williams and Leah Plave – performed two movements of String Quartet in C Minor, Opus 18, Number 4 by Ludwig van Beethoven.
Plave explained that she felt the music spoke for itself, so instead of describing it, she shared a colorful story from Beethoven’s life.
“Beethoven was kind of a gloomy guy, and he didn’t really take care of himself that well, so there was a period in his life when he was pretty down, and he was wandering the streets, kind of looking like a beggar,” Plave said. “Apparently, he was staring into people’s windows, and it scared someone enough that they called the police. Beethoven was arrested and the story goes that the more he tried to tell them, ‘I’m Beethoven, the famous Beethoven,’ the crazier they thought he was. So, Beethoven spent the night in jail.”
The final performance of the evening was by the trio of Michelle Kim, Benjamin Osterhouse and Katherine Benson. They played Trio in A Minor by Maurice Ravel.
While the piece was written for a trio, Osterhouse said Ravel had a way to create a piece that could be played by three musicians or a full orchestra.
“His music has been described as impressionistic and one of the things about Ravel’s writing that’s very distinctive is the way he orchestrated things,” Osterhouse said. “A lot of the pieces he wrote – he originally wrote for piano and then orchestrated for full orchestra. What I mean by orchestrating, basically if you have a piece where you have the harmonies and the melodies all figured out and you orchestrate it, you’re deciding which melodies and harmonies to give to each of the instruments in the orchestra.
“You can be really creative with that,” Osterhouse continued. “There’s a huge number of instruments in the orchestra to choose from, and there’s a lot of artistic things you can do with that. This piece is jam-packed with amazing things that would take all night to unpack.”
The evening culminated with a reception where the musicians mingled with the crowd.
Garth Newel Music Center is located on Route 220 between Hot Springs and Warm Springs, Virginia. For more information on programs offered and upcoming concerts, visit www.GarthNewel.org