In the sanctuary of Trinity United Methodist Church, Daniel Hope began the fourth installment of the chamber music series at The Savannah Music Festival by joking that it had become really hard to find music that none of his musicians had played.
“In fact, one of these works is not well known to these musicians at all,” Hope said.
What tied this program together was a contrasting platter of romantic influence. And while Hope jokes about the musician’s unfamiliarity with the music, it was not apparent given their execution.
At the top of the program was the “String Sextet in B-Flat Major, Op. 92” by French composer Vincent d’Indy. While not so well known to many these days, d’Indy was a highly influential composer in 1924, the year this piece was written.
Given its contrasting styles from movement to movement it was clear to hear the connections to great composers like Brahms, Franck and Liszt.
The musicians, joined notably by brothers Eric and Benny Kim, seemed to take joy in the meandering chromatic lines and swells that brought this little known piece to life. The commitment to highlighting the detailed contrasts in the music sounded as if they had all played this piece together for years.
Sandwiched between two works by French composers was Richard Strauss’ Sextet from “Capriccio.” The sextet was written as an introduction to the opera and premiered months before the show opened. While its style fit, it was strange to hear this work in the middle of a program.
Right from the first downbeat it was visible that the musicians had much more chemistry and fortitude with the Strauss. Many were making eye contact as they traded beautiful, complimentary lines back and forth. Each repetition of the main theme entered with more and more expressiveness.
As the Strauss ended there was a look of satisfaction on face of the musicians. The crowd, too, was thrilled as they gave a standing ovation before the intermission. (An intermission that could have been shorter or axed all together.)
The program concluded with Camille Saint-Saëns “Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 14” as the ensemble was joined by pianist Simon Crawford-Phillips.
This work begins with a turbulent dialogue between the piano and the strings. Crawford-Philips brought a dominant presence to the performance as he lead the ensemble forward. As four movements of the Saint-Saëns passed on, the classically influenced elements seemed to be right in the wheelhouse of these very talented musicians.
The third movement scherzo was particularly impressive. And while all of the compositions on this program were played unblemished they were all too similar in style. It stands to wonder how more creative voices could have been introduced into this programming.