The hustle and bustle of everyday life seemed to be washing away as I walked across the University Of Utah campus to the Libby Gardner Music Hall. I looked forward to the calm and relaxation that would be provided by The Chamber Music Society as they had brought England’s Doric Quartet for the evening’s entertainment. I roamed the halls asking what I thought were students about where the discussion about the quartet would be—as I had learned so much from the one I attended before the Faust and Melnikov performance. Unfortunately, there was not going to be one. I returned to the benches and after a few minutes I realized that the discussion was not needed as much more was going to be revealed to me by The Chamber Music Society members personally.
Naomi Feigal, President of the Society, introduced herself to me and to many other Chamber members, one in particular was Carter Ross, who takes care of the talent when they are visiting our lovely city. He escorted me to the front of the room and placed me in a seat front and center of the hall. I would not be looking at anyone’s back this time—every facial expression, exhale, movement of the body and slide of the bow would be seen. While we were waiting for the evening to begin, Mr. Ross informed me of the various halls that some of the Chamber artists play in and how the Wigmore is the place where elite artists get to play. He also gave me a small history about some of the pieces the Quartet would be playing, like how a piece from Haydn was once the Austrian national anthem became the German national anthem 200 years later. A funny discussion about symbolism and attitude in the various music scenes then took place as Ross and I shared stories about Austrian musicians from the past and today. A woman sitting next to us was selling CDs from the quartet. I picked one up, as a live performance is always the best time to purchase music as the artist gets most, if not all of the profit.
The lights dimmed, and the quartet walked out onstage. My cheeks flushed as I was touched by a small amount of embarrassment as I realized that the “student” I asked earlier about the discussion, was none other than the 2nd violinist Johnathan Stone. The cellist John Myerscough spoke briefly about the pieces they were performing, a little information about the composers and then the sweet serenade began. The opener was Haydn’s “Quartet in C Major; Op.76 No. 3.” The Members of the quartet were full of smiles and had almost a whimsical appearance to them during the beginning of this piece. It appeared as if there was a playful amount of bickering going on by the movement of their bows and bodies and layering of the sounds of the two violins. As I glanced around the room and I saw that many members of the audience were also smiling. The aggressive forte—deep thunderous, repetitive sounds sent chills through my spine and made the hair on my arms stand on end. I could only imagine how much fun that part of the piece was to play as the second violinist Stone almost stood several times as he was so into the music he was playing. During the end of this piece, I imagined Ross busting out the Austrian flag and waving it around.
Next up was Korngold’s “Quartet No.2 in E Flat Major, Op.26.” This piece was played with such accuracy and precision, it was as if an old motion picture was being played out before me using only music to tell you what was happening from the beginning of a love story, to the climax and tragedy of the plot, to the end where the damsel in distress dances off into the sunset with the man she loves. The music had you on the edge of your seat, leaving you yearning for the next movement. Myerscough was completely accurate when he described this piece as being like a Hollywood soundtrack.
The finale of the evening was Schubert’s “Quartet No. 15 in G major, Op. 161 D. 887.” He’s one of my favorite composers, as I see him as the experimental noise artist of his time. This was a very powerful piece, and this is where my thoughts began to be carried away. The soft vibrato was truly amazing and I just could not help but to stare with amazement at the movement of the artists onstage. Plucking and pounding showed me a new type of shredding was going on as the bows began to fray with the ferocity of this piece. First violinist Alex Reddington looked like a mad Beethoven with his determination and sweat on his brow during this performance. It showed an extreme amount of passion and dedication to the precision of mastering the piece he was playing. The audience came to their feet and shouted Bravo to the quartet when it was finished. The room was truly elated at what they had just heard.
It seems that as with many genres, chamber music is an aging art form and many of today’s youth may think it is boring or mundane, but I think that is due to the lack of exposure to it. I am grateful for bands like Metallica, the EBM group VNV Nation, the agro-tech industrial band Combichrist, the religious band Skillet and Lindsey Stirling’s dub step violin have shown that classical music can be interesting to fans of any age. Although, this gives a more precise, complex version of the music. It leaves you wondering how the translation happened as most of their music was not composed in this matter and many of today’s electronic artist do not know how to read sheet music.
If you have not been to a Chamber Music Society event, I suggest you grab some of your friends and go expose yourself to a very stimulating experience. It is something a music lover of any genre should experience. Find out more about the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City, including a schedule of upcoming performances, at their website.