Schweitzer Institute Chamber Concert Wednesday, Aug. 16, Schweitzer Mountain Resort
The Festival at Sandpoint showed what it really does best Wednesday.
It was an evening of excellent chamber music given an intimate setting at the Schweitzer Mountain Resort Green Gables Lodge.
The program was an interesting mix of old masters and young composers studying at the festival’s Schweitzer Institute of Music. The performers included members of the Schweitzer Chamber Ensemble and players from the Spokane Symphony. The ambiance, the music and the performances made it an ideal evening.
The evening’s great masterpiece was Johannes Brahms’ Quartet in C minor, the most turbulent and tragic of Brahms’ three quartets for piano and strings. Brahms call this quartet his “Sorrows of Young Werther,” referring to Goethe’s tragic hero, and the composer refused to publish the work until years after its completion.
Violinist Juin-Ying Lee, violist Kurt Rohde, cellist Dieter Ratzlaf and pianist Daniel Velicer captured the stormy urgency of the quartet’s fast movements and the melancholy longing of its songful Andante.
Less than ideal, though, was the jangle of the out-of-tune piano, the unfortunate result of the illness of the festival’s piano technician.
Wednesday’s new works included eight selections from “Ten Volcanos” for Violin and Piano by Forrest David Pierce and Kurt Rohde’s Phantasy for Flute, Viola, Cello and Double Bass.
Pierce is a 23-year-old, Washington-born composer now living in Minneapolis. The work makes the circuit of the most famous Northwest volcanoes with short musical descriptions. The moods ranged from the humor of slippery descending scales for Oregon’s Mount Bachelor (famous as a ski mountain) to the solemnity of Mount Adams with dissonant chords supporting a melody that sounded like a hymn tune, but slightly warped.
Pierce’s final volcano, Tahoma (Mount Rainier), began with a slow chordal section on the violin violently interrupted by thunderclaps produced by fists and forearms on piano. The work received a spirited performance by Velicer and violinist Joseph Meyer.
Kurt Rohde, a 29-year-old composer from San Francisco, has performed as a violist on most of the Schweitzer Institute chamber programs. The final work on Wednesday’s concert showed him in both roles.
He joined his Schweitzer Institute colleagues, flutist Carrie Rose, violinist Joseph Meyer, Spokane Symphony cellist Helen Byrne and symphony bassist Paige Markham-Lester in a performance of his Phantasy for Flute and Strings.
The Phantasy begins with sporadic outbursts and progresses steadier activity in which each section features a solo in which the instrument establishes its own character - moody impressionism for the flute, jazzy pizzicato for bass … that kind of thing. Nonetheless, the work seemed to hold together, and the performers gave a good account of it.
I was especially impressed by the luminous sound of Rose’s low register and the tireless energy Bryne exhibited in Rohde’s relentless cello figuration.
The evening began with a tribute to the great American violinist Louis Krasner, who died in May at age 92. Krasner taught chamber music at the Schweitzer Institute near the end of his distinguished career as a concert violinist, orchestral concertmaster and teacher. Young-Nam Kim, a student of Krasner’s who succeeded his teacher as chamber music coach at Schweitzer, gave a warm-hearted performance of the Adagio from Haydn’s C major Violin Concerto. It was fitting celebration of Krasner’s idealism.