USCB Chamber Music returns with 43rd season opener.
By Michael Johns
On Sunday, November 6, 5 pm, USCB Chamber Music’s 43rd season
opens with a spectacular splash of musical colors and styles. Artistic Director, pianist, and host Andrew Armstrong has ably assembled a program that will inflame the passions, satisfy intellectual curiosity, and offer a variety of vibrant sounds and pleasing melodies. There are two pieces of American music (one influenced by jazz, the other by imaginative fancy), a mainstream Austrian classical work, two French pieces (one with Spanish seductiveness, the other celebrating the French Baroque), a Norwegian piece (with a nod to the German Baroque) and a Hungarian piano, wind, and string ensemble work of fervid extravagance. The seven compositions are set in six different instrumental combinations. There is something to please every taste and emotion.
The concert begins with American composer Julia Perry’s jazz-inflected Prelude for Piano. Written while she was a junior in college, Perry’s halting and unhurried ballad begins with heaviness and ascends to radiance. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Classical-period Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Opus 11 provides tuneful melodies with hints at the disruptive qualities he would magnify as he transformed western music. The American Florence Price is represented with her Elfentanz (Dance of the Elves) for Viola and Piano, a charming and whimsical miniature with ragtime-inflection and heart-felt nostalgia. Maurice Ravel is represented by two works arranged for French horn and piano. Habanera weaves sensuous, seductive melodies over the piano’s hypnotic dance rhythm while Rigaudon, from Le Tombeau de Couperin features bubbly energy surrounding a middle section of exquisite delicacy and intimate reflection.
Following intermission, Johan Halvorsen’s Sarabande con variazioni
(Thême de Händel), for Violin and Viola takes a simple Baroque tune and, over eleven variations, gradually builds through flashy virtuosity to a monumental conclusion approaching symphonic majesty. Concluding the program is a dazzling, hyper-romantic showpiece: Sextet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Horn, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 37 by Ernst von Dohnányi. A major force in Hungarian music as a pianist, composer, conductor, and administrator, Dohnányi was granted US citizenship following WWII and spent his last decades on the faculty of Florida State University. Conservative by nature, Dohnányi used preexisting forms and filled them to overflowing with lyricism, expansive sonic vistas, and sparkling wit. The Sextet is a unique, strong, and gripping work. Because of its unusual instrumentation it is under-represented in concert halls; do not miss the opportunity to hear this masterpiece!
Mr. Armstrong has assembled a stellar group of superb artists to
perform this varied program: the legendary French hornist Philip Meyers was principal horn of the New York Philharmonic from 1980-2017, soloed with the orchestra every year of his tenure, and taught at the Juilliard School; Dominic Desautels, a graduate of the Université de Montréal, is principal clarinetist at the Canadian Opera Company, adjunct assistant professor of clarinet at the University of Toronto, and in frequent demand as a soloist and chamber musician; violist Beth Guterman Chu, a graduate of the New England Conservatory and Juilliard School, has been the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra principal viola since 2013, was a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and is a frequent chamber music collaborator at music festivals across the country; cellist Alice Yoo holds degrees from the New England Conservatory, Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England, and the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, is the Co-founder and Co-Artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival, a faculty member at Colorado State University and the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, and performs in numerous chamber music festivals, including Marlboro/Musicians from Marlboro Tours, Ravinia, Yellow Barn, Olympic, and Moab Music Festivals; violinist Arnaud Sussmann was trained at the Conservatoire de Paris and the Juilliard School, won a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant, has been a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 2006, and is respected worldwide as a soloist, recording artist and chamber musician. Minnesota’s Pioneer Press writes, “Sussmann has an old-school sound reminiscent of what you’ll hear on vintage recordings by Jascha Heifetz or Fritz Kreisler, a rare combination of sweet and smooth that can hypnotize a listener. His clear tone [is] a thing of awe-inspiring beauty, his phrasing spellbinding.” Hearing Artistic Director Andrew
Armstrong on a regular basis has positioned series subscribers into eagerly anticipating his witty and unscripted stage remarks, brilliant pianism, and artistic intensity. Not one to sit on his laurels while away from Beaufort, Andy recently recorded a new solo album of American composers for release on an international label in 2023 and within days of the first USCB Chamber Music concert he will be off to Melbourne, Australia for a performance of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with James Ehnes.
Support the Arts! Join us for USCB Chamber Music’s impressive opening concert, enjoying brilliant performers bring to life skillfully crafted works of human invention. There are multiple ways to enjoy the concerts—In Person, Live-Stream and On-Demand. All virtual concerts are professionally produced, creating ideal viewing opportunities. On-Demand is accessible four days after the concert and available to view at your leisure for three weeks. For concert/ticket information, go to www.uscbchambermusic.com or call 843-208-8246, Monday through Friday. The concert is Sunday, November 6, 5 pm at the USCB Center for the Arts; doors open at 4 pm.