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Musical Queries by The Sherman Ensemble

Musical review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Jul 9th, 2016

The Sherman Ebsemble

The Sherman Ensemble opened with Joaquin Turina’s Piano Quartet I A minor, Op. 67. Composed in 1931, the year Turina received the Chair of Composition at Madrid University, the piece employs Andalusian motifs in neo-Romantic mode. The slow-fast-slow triad of lyrical movement invites reflection on the color and stability of local tradition as piano and violin alternately lead with the viola, played with appropriate passion by Sarah Adams, soaring with prominence in the melodic, dance-like Vivo. While the Andante runs faster than most andantes, Jill Levy’s violin managed to re-thread themes in elegant summation that approached contemplation. This was a pleasant, engaging opener.

Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano by Bohuslav Martinu followed. Czech folk tunes were curiously transmuted into abstractions. The instruments conversed with asymmetrical glancing themes, yet each instrument projected such distinctive voice it sounded as if they were implacable individuals giving completely different perspectives on a related topic. The fierce flute Allegro opening performed by Susan Rotholz was an arresting tour-de-force that invited the audience to wonder if they could follow it, or wonder what could possibly follow it.

Dedicated to Marcel Moyse’s wife, renowned flautist Marcel Moyse performed the radio premiere broadcast on January 7, 1937. Rotholz had studied under Marcel Moyse, a founder of the Marlboro Music School in Vermont (and teacher of James Galway), during the last seven years of Moyse’s life. The ensuing Adagio was bridled by the sweep of Levy’s violin. In the medley of voices, Rotholz’s flute dominated in the Allegretto. In the concluding Moderato, Margaret Kampmeier’s piano flourished with cadenza runs as it knitted or welded varied themes into agreeable, orchestral unanimity with a trail-hike into sylvan landscape more enchanting than all hitherto proposed abstractions.

After brief intermission, Jacques Ibert’s Duex Interludes for Flute, Violin and Piano (1946) provided a genial tonic of salon music rich in urbane melody that concluded with remarkably harmonious marriage between flute and violin.

The piece-de-resistance in which the ensemble played together as if they were a single instrument was Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat, Op. 47. (1844). One of Schumann’s most magnificent masterpieces, it remains a notable example of obsessional music with sequential patterns repeating themselves and rigidly piling on with implacable force within larger structures. In the third and fourth movements the cello rises to become a tour-de-force nova explosion as it leads the instruments into a new musical landscape. Eliot Bailen on cello delivered impassioned ecstasy to remember.

Did Schumann inspire Martinu’s peculiar structure? Can wonder better be activated by inward exploration or outward, asymmetrical speculation, or a walk in the woods? Or does genuine contentment reside in relaxing amiability with the lighter music of Turina and Ibert? These were some questions evoked by their program title Journey Across Europe during their performance at St. Andrew’s Church in Kent. The program will be repeated Sunday evening at Lake Mauweehoo Clubhouse, Sherman, CT, 8 pm. For season schedule or tickets: http://www.shermanchamberensemble.org/pdf/2016trifold.pdf