Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

June 28, 2010

Aston Magna

Simon's Rock, Great Barrington, MA
June 26, 2010
by Debra Tinkham

"Completely Mozart" was the venue at Bard College at Simon's Rock, with eight of the talented Aston Magna musicians. Mozart's quartet in F was a three part quartet, featuring Daniel Stepner on violin, David Miller on viola, Loretta O'Sullivan on cello and Stephen Hammer on oboe.

Allegro began with an oboe solo, joined by a string trio. Hammer demonstrated some difficult passages with nice dynamics. Adagio began like a heavy, broken heart. Although very short, O'Sullivan displayed her usual heartfelt emotion.

With joyful laughter and echoes, Rondeau portrayed an equal blend of strings and woodwind, although the oboe far outweighed the dynamic blend, making it more of a solo instrument. The theme was playful with recapitulation variations. Hammer utilized the full range of his Baroque period oboe but seemed to struggle slightly in the upper register.

Gran Sestetto Concertante's Allegro maestoso, which means quickly majestic, was a sextet of two violins, two violas and two cellos. A new cellist to Aston Magna is Guy Fishman, who made his solo debut with the Handel and Haydn Society Orchestra and in "2002 was their youngest player." At the age of 16, Fishman began his Baccalaureate studies at the Manhattan School of Music and holds a Doctorate from the New England Conservatory of Music. On this night he played a 1704 Roman cello. Fishman is young, experienced, attentive, impressive. Getting back to the other performers, the first movement was emotional and each of these musicians has their own unique style. Fishman is definitely a nice addition.

Andante, which generally implies slow, was not so slow -- very moving in many ways, dramatic and lugubrious. Presto was intensely harmonic, with 60 very busy fingers. This was a "stringed conversation" and everyone wanted to talk at once. Then, back to one conversation, leading into another and another, until they were again all talking at once. The difference between verbal conversations and musical conversations is that with the Aston Magna musicians, six voices talking at the same time are a thing of beauty.