Sunday afternoon’s outing of the second chamber program brought further homage to String Quartet inventor Josef Haydn, sandwiched in between the music of two of America’s finest tunesmiths of the early 20th century: Arthur Foote and Amy Beach. As host Geoff Nuttall pointed out, they were both part of a group of composers known as “The Boston Six” — probably the most influential group of American composers in their day.
The afternoon’s music began with Arthur Foote’s A Night Piece, a lush and smoothly rapturous number for flute and string quartet. Joining the St. Lawrence String Quartet (SLSQ) to bring it to life was flutist extraordinaire Tara Helen O’Connor, whose fab flutism has been stupefying Spoleto audiences for quite a few festivals now. Amid the music’s serene strains were a few gentle whiffs of the French impressionist style; the central section, for muted strings, was to die for — especially in the hands of these stellar musicians.
Turn back the time machine a couple of centuries to the 1790’s, when “Papa” Haydn was at the peak of both his powers and his fame, having taken England by storm with a series of 12 symphonies written specifically for big London orchestras. He had recently reached the milestone of his hundredth symphony — but he still had a few more left in him — to include this one, No. 101, nicknamed “The Clock,” for the suggestive “ticking” rhythm of its second movement.