By Mary Jane Leach
The Saratoga Chamber Players presented “Music for a Promise of Spring” Sunday afternoon in the United Methodist Church in Saratoga Springs to an almost full house. The music and a window at the back of the stage with a view outside more than made up for being inside on a spring afternoon.
The concert opened with Joseph Haydn’s Piano Trio in D Major (Hob. XV:16), with flute replacing the usual violin, which lent an airiness and lightness to the texture. Susan Rotholz (flute) and Margaret Kampmeier (piano) matched each other in phrasing and quality as they traded melodies and then played fast passages in remarkable togetherness.
Cellist Eric Bartlett rounded out the trio, adding a fullness to the sound that wasn’t at first apparent, but added greatly to the color of the sound. The opening movement had some surprises — sudden stops and abrupt modulations, foreshadowing some of Franz Schubert’s more daring harmonic escapades.
Arnold Schoenberg is a composer that many people think they don’t like until they actually hear his music. His “Kammersymphonie No. 1” in E Major as arranged by his student Anton Webern (a master composer in his own right) is just such a piece, steeped in the dense harmonic language of late Romanticism. It was originally written for 10 wind and five string instruments, but this arrangement is for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, which means that each player is quite busy, and a full sound is achieved with just a few performers.
Jill Levy (violin) and Romie de Guise-Langlois (clarinet) joined the opening trio. The piece was written using a quartal harmony — a harmony built on fourths, and you can even hear arpeggiated fourths at times. There have been times that fourths have been considered dissonant, and they do tend to be less stable than the usual fifths, which may lend a certain subtle “dissonance” to this work. It was performed exceptionally well, and got the biggest applause of the day.
To end the first half of the program, and to prepare us for the romanticism of Brahms, Levy and Kampmeier performed Nathan Milstein’s arrangement of Frederic Chopin’s posthumous Nocturne in C# Minor. This Nocturne has long sustained lines in the melody, difficult to perform on the piano but which translate really well to the violin, and Levy was more than up to the task.
Last on the program was Johannes Brahms’ Clarinet Trio in A Minor. This was the first piece in the program in which the cello really got to sing, and there were some really nice moments of interplay between the three instruments, which was only marred by the clarinet playing slightly out of tune in the soft passages. However, it was a lovely performance and concert.
Mary Jane Leach is a freelance writer and composer/performer.
Saratoga Chamber Players
When: 3 p.m. Sunday
Where: United Methodist Church, Saratoga Springs
Length: 100 minutes, with one intermission