by Danny Gaisin
The name “5 at the First” is a clever acknowledgement of its usual numerical complement and its performance location at the Unitarian church on Dundurn. Last evening, it was Six @ the 1st. and they were an impressive half-dozen. Violinists Yehonatan Berick & Csaba Koczo; Caitlin Boyle and Theresa Rudolph –violists and the Rachel’s – Desoer & Mercer – celli; made quite a team. Performing Mozart & Schoenberg offered two ends of a musical spectrum.
Mozart’s Grande Sextet K364 composed 230- and some years ago is not his most familiar work, except for excerpts or snippets from the presto that is oftimes used in commercials. Folks with an ear might remember the work from ‘Sophie’s Choice’ with Ms. Streep! 5@1 selected a creative and exciting arrangement that accentuated the harmony and synthesis of the musicians as well as contributing an orchestral feel to the piece. This was most noticeable in the requisite (for the time) opening allegro. The melodramatic andante was given a curious tweaking from the usual ¾ tempo as well as some dramatic pause effects. The movement’s emphatic viola riffs; counterpointed by the violins gave the audience some spell-binding moments especially Rudolph’s solo flashes. The short finale was performed with lilt and verve. Observing the musicians’ body language and posturing, they were having as much fun as was the audience.
Post-interval:- Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht; a thirty-minute musical interpretation of the Dehmel poem of the same name. It was not well received by its early 20th century audience given the odd harmonics; mood and subject matter. Atonal phrases mirror the speech patterns of the poem’s central characters – a couple walking in a park and then expressing a dark secret that conceivably (pun intended) affect their relationship. The work contains intrinsic hiatuses and acute timing thus necessitating on of the team serving as prompter/conductor. Facial expression and eye contact easily let the audience see that Berick was serving as podium-meister. This piece is a technical challenge requiring intense focus. The potential for pitfalls is so obvious that even the most amateur of musicians could appreciate that anything less than 100% is a sure disaster. Five at the First aced it!
The next concert will be a paean to Canadian Ensembles on Saturday Dec. 7th.