Waikanae Music Society presents:
New Zealand Chamber Soloists
Katherine Austin (piano) ; James Tennant (‘cello)
Lara Hall(violin/viola) : Dimitri Atanassov (violin/viola)
MOZART – Piano Quartet No, 2 in E Major K.493
HELEN BOWATER – Fekete Folyó (Black River)
SCHUMANN – Piano Quartet in E-flat Major Op.47
Memorial Hall, Waikanae,
Sunday, 30th October 2022
Waikanae is a 40 minute drive from Wellington, it has its own musical community, and the concerts that the Waikanae Music Society presents complement the concerts in Wellington. I don’t recall hearing the NZ Chamber Soloists in Wellington, which is a great pity, because you wouldn’t find a better ensemble anywhere. Three of its members teach at the Waikato Conservatorium of Music, Hamilton, and for this concert they were joined by Dimitri Atanassov, former concertmaster of the Auckland Philharmonia.
The repertoire for piano quartets is, compared with string quartets and piano trios, limited. This concert featured two contrasting landmark works, Mozart’s and Schumann’s and a recent New Zealand work, Helen Bowater’s Fekete Folyó, the latter spanning the narrative of the Danube and the people of its basin from the Black Forest in Germany to the Black Sea in Romania.
Mozart: Piano Quartet No.2 in E Major, K 493
This is the second of Mozart’s Piano Quartets, completed in the year of his set of six String Quartets, dedicated to Haydn, three of his piano concertos, and also while Mozart was working on his opera, The Marriage of Figaro, which was completed in the following year. There is a profusion of ideas, themes and lively contrasts in this quartet, and operatic snippets pervade the work. It has dramatic contrasts and suspense in the first movement, a beautiful aria in the second Larghetto movement and a suggestion of opera buffa in the last movement. It was impeccably played, with a lovely interaction between the violin and viola above the firm base of the cello. Their lovely tone, allied to a natural ease and fluency, was particularly notable.
Helen Bowater: Fekete Folyó (Black River)
The Fekete Folyó (in English the Danube), flows from the Black Forest to the Black Sea and on its way it traverses many lands of many people each with their unique and tragic histories. This is narrative music, with no evident formal structure, and the more engaging for that. We hear the wild rhapsodic music of gypsies, exuberant sounds of folk bands, and dark melancholic themes reflecting the tragic histories of the lands, moving Jewish themes echoing the terrible fate of the Jews of Hungary (at one point a sad cello solo taken up by the violin and viola). There is a lot of drama packed into this short interesting work, and it concludes with a most effective ending, the music petering out as the river disappears in the sea. Composer Helen Bowater was in the audience to acknowledge the applause.
Schumann: Piano Quartet Eb Major, Op. 47
For the second half of the concert Lara Hall and Dimitri Atanassov exchanged roles, Dimitri Atanassov played violin and Lara Hall viola. Schumann’s Piano Quartet was written some 60 years after Mozart’s K.493., and in that time the musical landscape, as indeed the entire world, had vastly changed. Although Schumann struggled with depression and bi-polar symptoms all his life, this work has an upbeat prevailing mood. It starts with a dark opening that resolves into a lively allegro. The second movement Scherzo is playful, recalling Schumann’s childlike spirit that was reflected in his earlier Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood) for piano. The third movement is a love song, passionate, and lyrical. The last movement, Vivace, has at its centre a Fugue, joyous, and energetic, and reflecting Schumann’s lifelong interest in the music of Bach. This is a work full of joy and a happy outlook. Three years later Schumann tried to commit suicide and was institutionalised for the remainder of his life.
This was a memorable concert, a great credit to the team of the Waikanae Music Society for bringing this outstanding group to the Wellington region.