INTERMEZZO CHAMBER SERIES, Vieve Gore Concert Hall, Westminster College, Monday
Music by members of the Second Viennese School (Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern) has been a staple of the Intermezzo Chamber Music Series since its inception.
The works of these composers don't receive the performances locally they deserve, so it's gratifying that there is a series that doesn't neglect this music.
Schoenberg's early String Quartet No. 2 in F sharp minor was on the program at Monday's Intermezzo concert played by Utah Symphony colleagues Lun Jiang and David Porter, violins; Roberta Zalkind, viola; and Pegsoon Whang, cello. They were joined in the final two movements by soprano Alisa Thomason.
Before Schoenberg developed his 12-tone technique, his music was steeped in the late German romanticism of Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. But he gradually moved away from the rich chromaticism of that musical language and toward a chromaticism that finally led to the breakdown of tonality. It is in this musical environment that he wrote his F sharp minor String Quartet.
It's significant that the opening line of the Stefan George poem that Schoenberg uses for the last movement begins with, "I feel wind from other planets." With this quartet, Schoenberg starts to explore a new manner of expression. The music is more austere, yet its impact on the listener is more direct. It becomes a visceral experience; it makes greater demands on the listener (and also on the musicians); and it is more intense and vivid emotionally.
The quartet of instrumentalists gave a compelling performance, one that was emotionally charged and boldly stated. They captured the relentless intensity of the expressions, and their playing was fabulously nuanced and wonderfully articulated.
Thomason, who has a powerfully dramatic voice but also knows how to carefully modulate it with beautifully crafted expressiveness, was radiant in the final two movements. She captured the anguish and suffering expressed in the third movement "Litanei" ("Litany") and the at-times unnerving otherworldliness of the final movement's "Entruckung" ("Rapture").
The concert opened with Jason Hardink playing an unannounced piano piece by Elliott Carter to celebrate the composer's impending 100th birthday in December. Then Hardink was joined by Jiang and Whang for Mendelssohn's impassioned Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor.The threesome displayed some nimble and wonderfully molded playing that brought out the romantic spirit of the opening movement with its dramatic turns and lyrically charged expressiveness. They played the entire work radiantly with seamless fluidity and nuanced phrasings.