Tchaikovsky is, of course, best known for his ballet music, as well as for his symphonies and the violin and piano concertos. But he also left behind a number of chamber works, including three string quartets. And while it isn't the most successful (or natural) medium for Tchaikovsky, he nevertheless did manage to create some memorable works in the genre.
His First Quartet (in D major, op. 11) was played at Monday's Intermezzo Chamber Music Series concert by Utah Symphony colleagues Joe Evans, violin; Julie Edwards, viola; and Kevin Shumway, cello. They were joined by violinist Emily Day-Shumway. They gave a superb reading of the work that was wonderfully vibrant and dynamic.
The D major is undoubtedly Tchaikovsky's most famous quartet. It owes its renown to the second movement Andante cantabile, one of those bittersweet little pieces that came so easily to Tchaikovsky and a piece that has been arranged for almost every conceivable instrumental combination.
The four players gave a finely wrought account of the movement that fortunately wasn't in the least sentimentalized. They approached it for what it was, and consequently it worked wondrously
In fact, the four were well-matched musically and temperamentally. Their ensemble playing was solid and well-balanced, and with Evans as leader, their playing was nuanced and subtle and well thought out.
Unlike Tchaikovsky, Mozart's genius manifested itself in all genres. And while he is regarded as the supreme operatic and symphonic composer of his generation, his chamber music is no less fabulous.
And it is the string quintets, rather than the quartets, that are among Mozart's most glorious and brilliant works. Symphonic in scope and impact, they show him at his highest creative level.
The Quintet in C major, K. 515, together with the Quintet in G minor, K. 516, are his finest works in the medium. The wealth of ideas, the length to which they are developed, their expansive nature and their emotional depth all contribute to their greatness.
The C major Quintet was on the program Monday, with Utah Symphony violist Carl Johansen joining the quartet of players. They gave a forceful reading of the work that conveyed the depth and expansiveness of the music convincingly. And they captured its expressiveness as well with their lyrical playing. Their interpretation was polished, elegantly crafted and seamlessly played. Particularly the slow movement was performed with exquisite beauty. There are several duets in the movement between first violin and first viola, and Evans and Johansen acquitted themselves wonderfully here.The concert opened with another Mozart piece, the seldom heard Duo for Violin and Viola in G major, K. 423, played with captivating elegance by Evans and Edwards.