From music critic Lindsay Koob:

By the third run of Chamber Music IX, word must’ve gotten out that one o’ them modern works was on the agenda, because there were quite a few empty seats at the 1 pm concert. Or was it just that the festival’s winding down? Either way, some folks missed a great show.

Concerning flutist extraordinaire Tara Helen O’Connor: Wadsworth told us in an earlier outing that they include her middle name to avoid confusion with a like-named stripper. You gotta be a good sport to work with this guy. With Wadsworth at the Steinway, she kicked off the program with Philippe Gaubert’s Nocturne and Allegro Scherzando. O’Connor’ s wicked flute – first dreamy, then playful – soared over the atmospheric piano foundation.

Then we heard featured series violist Masumi Per Rostad up close and personal in Mozart’s popular Kegelstatt Trio, K. 498. Joining him on equal footing were Todd Palmer on clarinet and Jeremy Denk at the keyboard. They brought this happy music to life with skill and touching musicianship. Rostad’s warm and rosy tone was beautifully offset by Palmer’s smooth sound, and Denk was a model of restrained brilliance. But we quickly went from musical heaven to hell, via Dmitri Shostakovich’s searing String Quartet No. 3, courtesy of the St. Lawrence SQ (left). As if Russian music weren’t depressing enough already, life under Stalin added new depths of gloom to it – and then WWII came along. This piece is one of its creator’s most personal utterances, personifying his nation’s helpless tragedy in the face of both war and opression. It’s filled with foreboding, violence, and sadness.

Coincidentally, this grief-stricken music was first violinist Geoff Nuttall’s own festival swan song, as he had to leave Charleston immediately after this performance to attend to a serious family illness. Nuttall’s own grief wasn’t far from the surface: his usual exuberance was scaled back a few notches – and it probably added to his ensemble’s interpretation of this terrifying masterpiece. This may mean yet another festival substitution for the group – regular violinist Barry Schiffman is already away on paternity leave. Vaya con Dios and best wishes, Geoff.


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