La Cafamore String Quartet Fall Tour with Nicola Everton at the Knox Presbyterian Church, Saturday September 29, 2012 , 7:30 pm
The evening program was like a fine meal. There was the pre-dinner snack (Bill Douglas’ CELEBRATION II), the entre (Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op 18 #4), the main course (Brahms’ Quintet for Clarinet and Strings) and for dessert some classic Etta James. All of this offered by some of the Kootenays finest chamber musicians performing in the wonderful setting of Cranbrook’s Knox Presbyterian Church.
With the music’s renewed sense of space, surprise and unusual sonorities I happen to like modern music. And although the name Bill Douglas is unknown to me his composition Celebration II contained all of the above elements. This Canadian born composer wrote the piece back in 1979 and, although it has not been published, word of mouth recommendations prompted clarinettist Nicola Everton to contact the composer. Most graciously Bill Douglas provided Nicola with his copy of the manuscript plus detailed instructions on the performance of the wordless vocal section. I would like to describe the performance in detail but that would be superfluous. You needed to be there to appreciate the clarinet riding over the top of the sustained strings, the wordless vocals in the middle section and the rhythmic tapping of Jeff Faragher’s wedding ring on the body of his cello. I noted that there was a sound engineer recording the performance and I hope that sometime in the near future we will get to hear this performance on CD.
Except for this particular circumstance Beethoven’s music is always much more than an entree. Although, in a historical context, this particular string quartet could be viewed as exactly that – an entree, a harbinger of things to come. At the time Beethoven was reaching back to the music of Mozart and Haydn but was also projecting forward to the music of the Romantic Era. An entree, so to speak, of what was to come. Elements of looking back and looking forward abound in this quartet.
Classical musicians have a real thing about the Romantic Composers and their music. Considering the thrust of their education and professional training this is hardly surprising. Unless they train as specialists in older music music any emphasis on early music is merely preparatory exercises for the real meat of the Romantic Era. Although the world has moved on classical musicians and their audiences are still mining the mother load of the Romantic Music of the 1800’s and early 20th century. Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Dvorak, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Mendelssohn, etc, and of course, Brahms are staples of the classical repertoire. So it should come as no surprise that a string quartet and a clarinetist would home in on the music of Brahms and, in particular, his Quintet for Clarinet and Strings. When describing the piece clarinetist Nicola Everton’s enthusiasm and love of the the composition was very evident and this came though in her performance of the piece. Like any good meal there needed to be a desert and for this concert its came in the encore with a spirited rendition of the classic Etta James tune At Last.
For concert goers who missed the quartet’s previous outing at the Knox Church the performance has been made available on CD. Can I look forward to a possible release of Saturday night’s concert on a CD in the near future?
This is the third concert of chamber music by the quartet and guests at the Knox Church and it is extraordinary that each concert has been a completely different program. These musicians and their guests are spread around the area, the province and the the USA. Angela Synder flies in from Virginia. To prepare, rehearse and showcase such diverse programs in such a short time frame is an outstanding tribute to their passion, ability and the quality of their musicianship.
This was a very successful concert for at least 50 patrons in this wonderful venue. Also of note was the number of new members of the Symphony of the Kootenays Board that attended the performance.
Post Script: The La Cafamore String Quartet will be returning to Cranbrook and the Knox Presbyterian Church for a concert in April 2013. Once again they will be performing a mix of the romantic and the modern. For the romantics they will play F. Schubert’s Death and the Maiden and for the moderns they will play G. Crumb’s Black Angels. Both of these compositions have a musical connection. If I may, here is a quote from the KRONOS QUARTET recording of Black Angels.
“BLACK ANGELS (1970) Thirteen Images from the Dark Land by George Crumb. ‘Things were turned upside down. There were terrifying things in the air ….. they found their way into Black Angels . – George Crumb, 1990.’ Black Angels is probably the only quartet to have been inspired by the Vietnam War. The work draws from an arsenal of sounds including shouting, chanting, whistling, gongs, maracas, and crystal glasses. The score bears two inscriptions: in tempore belli (in time of war)and Finished on Friday the Thirteenth, March, 1970.”