cj4.jpg

Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival, Spring Celebration

The Surf & Sound Series has become one of those Outer Banks traditions that make summer on this sandbar such a special time. Bringing world-class musicians in performance of classical music, the series makes four stops along the Outer Banks from Southern Shores to Buxton, insuring just about anyone who wishes to hear how magnificent these concerts are, will have a chance to do so.

The series is, in some ways, the tale of two recitals. The inaugural concert is at All Saints Episcopal Church in Southern Shores. Blessed with a concert grand piano, the musicians are able to perform music that they cannot do at an outdoor concert like the Duck Amphitheater, or in Buxton or at the Dare County Arts Council Gallery in Manteo, where there is no piano.

However, whether it is a piano quintet performance in Southern Shores or a string trio in Duck, the music is invariably captivating and beautiful.

The Tuesday evening performance at All Saints began with a work from Ernst von Dohnanyi, a Hungarian composer and pianist who was well-known and well-regarded during his lifetime but may not be a familiar name today.

After hearing the performance of his Piano Quintet No. 2 in Eb minor, that seems unfortunate.

The piece does not lend itself to an easy description. It is at times discordant, and seems to drift in and out of easily identified rhythms. The piano binds everything together in this composition, with the strings appearing to dance around the arrhythmic notes and chords of the piano.

For the most part there is no identifiable melody—but there are exceptions.

The Intermezzo begins with an exquisitely beautiful viola melody. The viola returns with the melody in the Moderato, the final movement of the piece. But the interplay in this final movement is much more complex, shifting between minor and major chords, the intensity building until the music seems angry and filled with passion.

First performed in 1914, perhaps this was von Dohnanyi’s foreshadowing of WWI, and his statement about the clouds of war that were gathering.

If von Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet is complex and demands the attention of the audience, Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 5 in E minor is like sunshine after a storm passes.

Performed with Amanda Halstead on piano, Katie Hyun on violin and Jacob Fowler on cello, the music is beautiful and lyrical with melody lines that are easily followed.

Dvorak envisioned his Piano Trio No. 5 as a dumky, a Slavic term for an epic ballad that would typically alternate between tragedy, sadness and joy, and the music reflects that.

Although the melody is easily identified in each of the six movements, the orchestration is complex with shifting rhythms and changes in key. Here the cello and violin come to the fore, carrying the melodies—each movement has a very distinct feeling and a melodic theme all its own.

Although the melodies have at times a dark, brooding feel, overall the piece does not feel sad, rather it gives the impression of a celebration of life.

Generally we try not to express favorites when it comes to the location of the concerts. There may be a mention of the concert grand at All Saints and how that allows a greater range of composition to be performed. Beyond that, however, there isn’t much to say.

There is an exception to that, though.

Sitting outside at the Duck Amphitheater after a storm has dried the air with a breeze off Currituck Sound…that is something special.

The music that was selected seemed to perfectly complement the setting

Beethoven’s Trio C minor Opus 9 No. 3 is an interesting piece. Composed fairly early in his career, many of the elements of his orchestration are apparent—the use of a recognizable theme that reappears throughout the composition and the constant movement of the music supporting the theme are two of the recognizable traits.

Elizabeth Coulter Vonderheide on violin, Luke Fleming on viola, and cellist Jacob Fowler have an opportunity to shine in this piece.

And shine they do. The interplay among the instruments creates a sense of beauty and peace at times, and at other times a feeling of tension as though something just beyond the horizon awaits.