Spectrum musicians make strong impression in varied chamber program

Tue Nov 07, 2017 at 11:08 am
By Wayne Lee Gay

Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 was performed by the Spectrum Chamber Music Society Monday night at Fort Worth Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church.

For over thirty years, members of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra have quietly and persistently presented chamber music under the auspices of the Spectrum Chamber Music Society, an organization operating entirely independently of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra Association. Rather than a repertoire imposed on them by forces heavily weighed in terms of marketing and ticket sales, these hardy musicians perform music they choose, and music they love.

        Monday night, five outstanding members of the orchestra joined a colleague from a local college music faculty to present an intellectually stimulating and beautifully performed program at Fort Worth Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church.

         The first half of the concert featured the unusual combination of viola (section player Daniel Sigale), clarinet (assistant principal Ivan Petruzziello), and piano (Richard Shuster of the faculty of Texas Woman’s  University) in Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (“Fairy Tales”). The Schumann was paired with contemporary Hungarian composer György Kurtág’s  Hommage à Robert Schumann, composed for the same forces.

        The four movements of the Schumann suite possibly refer to the tales of Rumpelstiltskin, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty, though these references are not necessary to enjoy and appreciate the romantic and lyrical sweep of this work. Clarinetist Petruzziello demonstrated a direct and beautiful tone with admirable control of volume and timbre even in the upper reaches of the register—qualities particularly evident in the third movement. Violist Sigale contributed a solid timbre while pianist Shuster handled the often thick, chordal piano part. All three were in top form for the broad melodic lines and swift, intricate passage-work of the final movement.

        The resemblance of the Kurtág work to Schumann’s music is purely philosophical, and, to the casual listener, not at all audible. In these six movements, Kurtág presents swift, often surprising impressions inspired by Schumann’s famous alter-egos, with huge demands for precision within often complex rhythms.

Here, the violist takes on the greatest technical challenges, all of which were handled nicely by Sigale. The sixth and final movement, as lengthy as the other five put together, features variations over a repetitious piano ground and sets up a sense of mystery, similar in momentum to Ravel’s Bolero or the opening movement of Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony, albeit much more succinctly. Here, the clarinetist sets aside his instrument to deliver a final stroke on a bass drum, in this case bringing to a close a brief but memorable musical moment.

        Fort Worth Symphony associate concertmaster Swan Lin joined the orchestra’s principal cellist Allan Steele and principal keyboardist Shields-Collins Bray after intermission to present a performance of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor worthy of any stage in the world. Shostakovich here calls on a huge array of his favorite compositional techniques, including fugal counterpoint, variation technique, and wry, sometimes grotesque melodies.

These musicians clearly grasped the intensity of detail here, as well as the darkly grand arch of the work. The finest moment of many came in the third movement Largo, in which violin and cello weave a canonic lament over a piano foundation echoing Chopin’s Prelude in C minor. Violinist Lin’s muscular but attractive quality perfectly complemented cellist Steele’s resonant tone; pianist Bray was equally in command of the often dry, austere piano writing as well as the brief moments of Lisztian glitter. 

As always, this Spectrum concert exhibited the power of professional musicians motivated by the sheer love of studying and performing great music together.

Leave a Comment