Excellent and interesting mix of Mozart quintet and Respighi song

Karori Classics:
Anna van der Zee, Anne Loeser (violins), Christiaan van der Zee (viola), Sophia Acheson (viola; Mozart only), Ken Ichinose (cello), Maaike Christie-Beekman (mezzo-soprano; Respighi)

Respighi: Il Tramonto (The Sunset)
Mozart: String Quintet in C, K.515

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Karori

Friday 23 June 2017, 7pm

The sun had well and truly set before I made my way to Karori through cold southerly rain and wind for a charity concert in the series organised by Christiaan van der Zee and others.  The regular Friday evening concerts in winter have usually been in St. Ninian’s Church; the change of venue brought a quite different acoustic.  This church has a vaulted timber ceiling and plastered walls, producing a clear, direct sound.  There was no difficulty in hearing every note clearly from the back of the church.  The strings sounded bright, and every sung note could be heard, even if pianissimo.  It was great to have professional musicians performing; I imagine that this acoustic could be unkind to less competent players.

I did not know the Respighi work at all.  It is a 1914 setting for string quartet and soprano of an Italian translation of a poem, The Sunset by English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.  The English words were displayed progressively on two screens mounted on pillars in the church.  The entry in Google speaks of the work’s “musical poeticism and its intense expressiveness”, with which I totally agree.  It proved to be an utterly suitable vehicle for Maaike Christie-Beekman’s fine voice and her subtle colouring; she was as convincing in the dramatic moments as in the meltingly romantic ones.

Respighi’s music is Romantic in style, suited to the poet’s words.  The poem concerns a young woman who finds her young lover dead after their night of love and sleep.  Like most of the composer’s music, the movements in France, Germany and elsewhere to changed musical languages were ignored.  The music was played superbly by the quartet, supporting and enhancing the splendid singing; a range of emotions was depicted.

The Mozart quintet exposed the lovely music of the composer in all its glittering detail.  Dynamics were subtle and through their infinite variety, commanded attention to the music.  In the glorious, long allegro first movement, constant rising figures give a positive feeling.  The robust second movement, Minuet (allegretto) and Trio yet contained many moments of delicacy.   Mozart’s constant invention of charming and mellifluous ideas is astonishing.  The slow movement, being andante, is more sombre, but in a calm way, with themes in the minor key (the principal key being F major), the interplay of instruments, all making a beautiful sound, was a delight.

The allegro final movement featured a return of the rising chords and cadences of the first movement.  This fast finale engendered a cheerful mood.  A delicate but bright ending brought to a close an hour of accomplished and enjoyable music-making.  The audience was rather more slender than those at previous concerts in the series that I have attended, probably due to the bad weather.



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