Chamber concert to feature piano, strings
Nov 09, 2012 (St. Joseph News-Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Few experiences in our city can match the grandeur of seeing the Saint Joseph Symphony perform in the historic Missouri Theater. But the symphony's chamber concerts certainly possess their own unique charms. At least, that's what symphony director Rico McNeela would argue.
"The big concerts are really exciting, splashy events, but the chamber concerts are much more intimate in their expression," McNeela says. "They're more conversational, rather than spectacular."
The Saint Joseph Symphony will hold its first of this season's four chamber concerts at 2 p.m. Nov. 11 at First Presbyterian Church in Downtown St. Joseph. And that conversational chamber music will be played in full force.
The five orchestral musicians featured in this concert will be Chun-Chien Chuang (violin), Trisha McGovern (violin), Monty Carter (viola), Mark Stauffer (cello) and John Villaveces (piano). The quintet will perform three chamber pieces of significant importance: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "String Quartet in G Major," Joaquin Turina's "Oracion del Torero for String Quartet" and Robert Schumann's "Piano Quintet in E Flat Major."
Mozart's string quartet was created in 1782 while the legendary composer was living in Vienna, Austria. This piece is the first of the Haydn Quartets, a set of six string quartets Mozart wrote during his first few years in Vienna in honor of the composer Joseph Haydn, who is generally viewed as the father of the string quartet form. In fact, McNeela says Mozart gave Haydn the quartets as a gift complete with publishing rights.
More than any of Mozart's works, this string quartet is noted for its great chromatic symmetry. Historians often refer to the composition as the "Spring Quartet" because of its warm, cheerful nature.
"It's a particularly funny, upbeat piece with bright emotion," McNeela says.
A drastically different chamber piece will follow as the musicians delve into Turina's "Oracion del Torero." Turina composed the single-movement composition in 1924. At the time, the Spanish composer was clearly inspired by French songwriters like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, who were known for their "impressionist" strokes and Iberian touches.
"If you were hearing it for the first time, you'd swear, 'that's some kind of work of Ravel's that I haven't heard before,'" McNeela says of Turina's "Oracion del Torero."
The piece's listless harmonies will bring listeners back to the soundtracks of silent movies -- exotic scenes of adventure, bravado and passion as the toreador approaches his potentially fatal battle. The toreador's boldness turns to humility as the quartet continues through the bullfighter's various conflicted moods as he enters the ring. Turina paints a vivid portrait, to say the least.
"It has a real Spanish flair," McNeela says.
The main course of the concert will be Schumann's "Piano Quintet in E Flat Major," which is widely considered to be one of the most famous chamber music compositions in history.
Schumann was one of the first great composers to pair the piano with the string quartet. By 1842, the string quartet was well established as the most important chamber music ensemble, and advances in the design of the piano had expanded its power and dynamic range. In combining these instruments for the delicate, anxious "Piano Quintet in E Flat Major," Schumann opened a realm of incredible musical possibilities.
"It's the most important of the early piano quintets because it inspired so much that followed," McNeela explains.
McNeela says that playing compositions of such impact have allowed these symphony players to improve their communication and pick up on each other's cues and visuals. In other words, this five-piece is finely tuned.
General admission tickets for the Saint Joseph Symphony chamber concert are $23 for adults and $10 for students and children. Tickets can be purchased online at saintjosephsymphony.org. Tickets also may be purchased today at the symphony office at 120 S. Eighth St. or by phone at 233-7701. They will also be available at First Presbyterian Church on the day of the concert beginning at 1 p.m.
Shea Conner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.
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