This year’s Sounds of Summer series at The Plaza Live Theatre came to a conclusion on Monday night with a captivating performance of early Romantic chamber music.
The renditions, by musicians of the Orlando Philharmonic, of the three pieces were precise, carefully coordinated and at times touching. The highlight of the program was the nearly 45-minute String Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132, by the master from Bonn. Having warmed up to the audience and felt each other out for effective execution of dynamics and tempo fluctuations in the first half of the program, the quartet’s Beethoven was more assured than the Mendelssohn, elevated by a most pleasing synergy among the foursome.
The most striking aspect of the quartet’s performance style is that they played on their feet, instead of sitting in chairs, as is usually the case. The cellist was the exception, with his chair placed on a platform to make eye contact with the others easier.
“Standing up can solve some perennial quartet problems, such as chairs not being the same height or squeaking during delicate pianissimo passages. Quartet acoustics can also be bolstered,” writes violist Inge Kjemtrup in an article for www.allthingsstrings.com. The latter comment seemed to be the case on this performance. Although the stage is surrounded by sound panels, the space at the theater is perhaps not ideal for the intimacy of a string quartet, so this performance style helped with the sound projection.
The high points of the Beethoven were the subtle crescendos and diminuendos, which helped to bring to life the polished form and delicate hinges that hold the piece. Likewise, the prayer-like slow movement, which stretches over a large portion of the middle of the score, was exquisitely articulated, with calmness and an aching composure, until the pace stepped up to its steady andante.
Rimma Bergeron-Langlois and Alexander Stevens, violins; Mauricio Cespedes, viola; and David Bjella, cello, made up the quartet. The talented cellist, an instructor from Stetson College, was a guest performer, joining the OPO regulars. All four musicians employed a clean and direct style, not too heavy on vibrato nor unnecessarily accentuated during louder passages.
The Mendelssohn A minor Quartet is also a superb piece, influenced by Beethoven’s late quartets. The musicians sounded best on the second movement and, in general, during the quieter and more reflective sections. The general structure of Mendelssohn’s score follows a path similar to that of Beethoven’s, with a slow introduction giving way to an allegro first movement.
The adagio second movement of the Mendelssohn includes a contrapuntal section that was woven through time with precision. Pizzicato accompaniment and solo passages complement this wonderful piece by the precocious 18 year-old composer.
The Glinka D minor trio was a change of style. Performed in between the quartets, the trio for violin, bassoon and piano was highlighted by the great bassoon player Gabriel Bergeron-Langlois, who plays with several Florida orchestras. With great command of the instrument, he projected a solid sound, never sinking below the higher pitches of the violin (Rimma) and the piano (Keiko Ohnuki Andrews).
The Orlando Philharmonic continues with a collaboration with Mariachi Cobre on September 6, and the grand Season Opening Night on September 20, under the baton of guest conductor Alondra de la Parra.
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