Delectable Dvořák, palatable Puccini and delicious Dohnányi at Waikanae

Waikanae Music Society
Emona Piano Quintet (Michael Houstoun, piano; Wilma Smith, violin; Gillian Ansell, viola; Monique Lapins, violin; Eliah Sakakushev-von Bismarck, cello)

Dvořák: Piano Quintet no.2 in A, Op.81
Puccini: Crisantemi (Chrysanthemums)
Dohnányi: Piano Quintet in C minor, Op.1

Waikanae Memorial Hall

Sunday 24 June 2018, 2.30pm

The delectable Dvořák quintet was a joy to hear; the Puccini was highly palatable, and the Dohnányi delicious, from an outstanding group of musicians.  Two are present New Zealand String Quartet members, one a former member, plus two highly regarded players.  A large audience heard them play.  Such is the musical activity in Wellington, there were five classical concerts in the Wellington region listed on Middle-C’s Current Events page for Sunday.

The first movement (allegro ma non tanto) opens on piano, then a beautiful melody on the cello proceeds.  The reverie it creates passes, as the other instruments enter with a lively theme.  A slight lack of cohesion at the beginning soon disappeared.  The developments of the theme were all euphonious.  Playing of verve and sensitivity and the fact that every instrument had important passages of their own held the interest.  This was an extended movement full of variety and energy, ending with a great flourish.

The second movement is a Dumka (andante con moto), a form that Dvořák used elsewhere in his chamber music.  This started gently with a solemn passage, that gave way to dance-rhythms and light-hearted phrases of melody, followed by a melancholy sequence with piano delivering the theme.  The strings followed, in music that seemed to denote an acceptance of life’s sorrows, before breaking into a sprightly dance.  A section of pizzicato on cello was most effective.  The movement came to a gentle conclusion.

The Scherzo (Furiant: molto vivace) third movement lived up to its name, being rapid and lively. The piano had some marvellous themes, and strong cello was heard.

The finale (allegro animato – allegro) was a busy movement.  After a fugue, there is a thoughtful chorale section before a bright and triumphant ending.

Puccini’s short Crisantemi was composed for string quartet, in memory of a friend.  Chrysanthemums are the traditional flowers of mourning in Italy.  Puccini later used both the plaintive melodies in his opera Manon Lescaut.  A brief spoken introduction by the cellist told us that this music is used at funerals in Italy, as Barber’s Adagio for Strings is used in the USA.  The music received a very touching performance, with plenty of light and shade.  The four players were absolutely in accord.

Dohnányi’s quartet was published as his Opus 1, although he had written quite a lot of music prior to it.  Von Bismarck, in his remarks, said some of the music was reminiscent of Richard Strauss.  There was fine playing from all the  members in this well-balanced quintet.

Grand themes featured in the first movement (allegro).  Unusually, there was a passage for strings in unison.  The Scherzo (allegro vivace) second movement had a fidgety opening, followed by calmer, more solemn music.  It had a link to the opening work of today’s concert, in the use of the Bohemian Furiant which was the lively part of the Scherzo.  The players performed it with verve and absolute unanimity.

The third movement (adagio, quasi andante) was in 5/4 rhythm, and began with a wonderful romantic melody on cello.  Viola soon had its turn, and the other instruments joined in.  The romantic mood persisted, and the music became quite excited.  Quiet episodes were interspersed with animated ones.

The Finale (allegro animato – allegro) was a dance.  A fast-flowing fugue developed.  The music worked up to an animated climax and an emotional conclusion.

Altogether, this was a memorable concert from top musicians, and was much appreciated by the audience.


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