The eighth annual Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival began with a major bang on Sunday, September 9. Literally, a major bang, as the event opened with Mozart’s String Quintet in C Major, K. 515. The 220-year-old piece’s melodies ricocheted back and forth between violas, violins and cello, filling Old Cabell Hall with the sweet sounds of the talented musicians’ efforts.
The quintet was a good opening, but after establishing itself with the time-honored composer, the festival jumped forward 200 years to take on Terry Riley’s String Quartet No. 10, Good Medicine, from his epic Salome Dances for Peace. As the four players took the stage, the air of familiarity that surrounded the Mozart piece was replaced with a sense of energy and excitement. Here was something new, at least on the classical music scale. Riley’s piece built into a taut, beautiful frenzy and ended with a quick and climactic flurry.
Judith Gordon (piano) and Raphael Bell (cello) strung listeners along through the second performance in the eighth annual Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival.
After a well-placed intermission, the music jumped back in time again for another C major quintet, Beethoven’s Storm, which lived up to its name. Bows lurched with the jagged quickness of lightning, and violinist Jennifer Frautschi played so intensely that she seemed to be lifted off of her seat by some invisible tornado. The tempestuous performance seemed natural for a late summer afternoon and brought the first night of the festival full circle.
The festival’s second concert on Thursday, September 13, made a similar historical loop, but this time with Philip Glass sandwiched between 19th century French composers Camille Saint-Saëns and César Franck. Saint-Saëns’ Cello Sonata No. 1 in C Minor made for a sparse and gradual opening, as pianist Judith Gordon and cellist Raphael Bell carried out the piece’s careful sonic weavings.
Glass’ String Quartet No. 5 followed as a superb display of the minimalist’s effectiveness. The musicians ran up and down stairs of notes, climbing (sometimes jumping) from simple whispering vibrations to multiplied, cascading peaks.
Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor rounded out the second evening. Starting out with dramatic, romantic dances between Jesse Mills’ violin and Gordon’s piano, the piece expanded into a broader landscape with every musician’s nimble fingers painting part of the picture.
You’ve still got a chance to catch the final two installments of this year’s Chamber Music Festival, which feature a broad range of virtuosic performers and inspired compositions. It’s rare that so much aural greatness comes together like this, so make your way to Cabell Hall for a splendid evening.
The last two concerts of the Charlottesville Chamber Music Festival take place on Thursday, September 20 at 8pm and Sunday, September 23 at 3pm. For tickets and more information call 295-5395 or visit www.cvillechambermusic.org.