Students from the Garth Newel Music Center Emerging Artist Fellowship, in Warm Springs, Virginia, gave a performance at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory Thursday evening.
Eight pieces, by composers Erno Dohnanyi, Antonin Dvorak, Bohuslav Martinu, Dmitri Shostak-ovich, Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendel-ssohn and Claude Debussy, were performed by a trio and quartets.
As a way to “tune in” the audience, students described each piece to be performed and shared their personal interpretation of the music.
Cello player Jason Mooney said he is often asked which composer’s music he enjoys playing most, a question that usually stumps him.
“When thinking about what I was going to say about this piece, I thought about all the times I’ve been carrying my cello around in an airport,” he said. “You kind of stick out a little bit and everybody wants to know – ‘who’s your favorite composer?’ I never really know what to say because there’s so much music that I love. I usually just say whoever I’m playing at the moment because I don’t have the right answer.”
Mooney said he enjoys playing Antonin Dvorak pieces because he has written some beautiful melodies and the piece they performed – “Piano Trio No. 2, Op. 26, Largo” – is a perfect example of that.
Many times, the students described the pieces as beautiful and melodic, but there are a few composers who take their music in a different direction.
“I think when I describe [Dmitri Shostakovich], I think of words like ‘stark’ or ‘grotesque’ and ‘anxious,’ ‘bombastic’ – sort of words that reflect the life that he lived,” violist Samuel Kelder said.
The quartet performed “Quartet No. 1 in C Major, Op. 49, Allegro,” a piece that stands out from Shosta-kovich’s other quartets.
“It’s a rather unique piece compared to his other fourteen string quartets,” Kelder said. “The piece is almost neutrally tempered with hints of Russian folk melodies and sort of this springlike atmosphere. You should expect to hear injections of his signature sort of ‘turning of the dagger,’ character-wise.”
Although the students had spent only one week practicing together, they developed a deep connection to the pieces, and to each other.
“We are going to play one of the most beautiful slow movements in all of music – in my opinion,” cellist Tim Paek said. “I think it’s so beautiful. The slow movement is like a song with no words. [Felix] Mendelssohn was known for writing songs with no words and the slow movement we’re playing for you today has one word that I think can capture all of it, at least, and I think it’s ‘love.’ We hope we share how much we love each other to you through our music.”
When describing “Serenade, Op. 10,” written by Erno Dohnanyi, violinist Hoorig Poochikian explained that Dohnanyi found a way to take the serenade formula and add his own flavor to the mix.
“In the classical period, a serenade was typically a multi-movement consisting of calm, light music, not overly dramatic,” Pooch-ikian said. “What I find really cool about this work is how Dohnanyi manages to adopt the classical form, yet incorporates his own romantic Hungarian flavor. You’ll find that both movements take a somewhat unexpected turn which takes you to a whole new place, only to return seamlessly to where we began.”
Finishing the evening, the final quartet performed the only French piece of music included in the program.
“It’s really special for us because this is the only French music in the whole entire program,” violinist Janny Joo said. “So, as the language French has its own unique vibe, so does French music. When we were working on this piece, the thing that we discussed the most was how this piece reminds us a lot of Impressionistic painting, like works of Van Gogh or Monet.”
Joo pointed out that she noticed an audience member had a Vincent Van Gogh tattoo on her arm and used the art as an example to explain the piece.
“I saw someone over there with some Van Gogh on her arm so this is the musical version of your arm, Joo said, laughing. “We hope you enjoy the only French music on the program.”
The final Fellows Performance will be Sunday, August 9, at 3 p.m. at the Garth Newel Music Center on Route 220 between Hot Springs and Warm Springs, in Virginia.
For more information on the Garth New Music Center, visit www.Garth Newel.org