Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 16, 2018

REVIEW: Aston Magna Music Festival: Beethoven Septet, Mozart Quartet, Bernhard Romberg Trio

Aston Magna Music Festival, St. James Place, Great Barrington, MA
July 14, 2018
By Barbara Stroup

For Aston Magna’s fourth offering this season, Director and violinist Daniel Stepner programmed a rich program of selections from three Classical and early Romantic composers in an instrumental program of enchanting variety and secure musicianship.

Mozart’s Quartet in B Flat gave Mr. Stepner and clarinetist Eric Hoeprich an exchange of lines and melodies that were sweet and soaring. This reviewer would be content to just hear scales from Mr. Hoeprich – his sound is so pleasing. The definitive first movement was followed by a lush, transporting Andante that was moving but not sentimental. After the bouncing happiness of the third movement rondo, the quartet received its first rousing thank you from the audience.

But there was much more to come. A Trio by Bernhard Romberg hints broadly at the Romantic era and featured cellist Jacques Lee Wood. Described as a “difficult” work by its name, this piece allowed Mr. Wood’s virtuosity to shine and at times, it even showcased the usually reclusive sound of the viola played so well by David Miller. Supported by the sensitively present bass playing of Anne Trout, a frequent consort member at Aston Magna, the piece revealed a lesser-known but worthwhile composer of the late Classical and early Romantic era.

Regarding the Septet that closed the program, we may all share some relief that the composer’s advice was not followed. Beethoven said, “Burn this!” to lament what he considered the work’s over-popularity, but the six-movement piece is another testament to the variety of his amazing compositional skill. The post-intermission offering brought all seven instrumentalists to the stage; it offers virtuosic opportunity for the violin, trio work for the strings, a reflection of a keyboard piece known to most piano students, a march tempo theme with many variations, and several opportunities to hear the horn, the bassoon and the clarinet played so beautifully. How often does that happen?

The writing for this combination of instruments --- strings, reeds, wind – is just magnificent and it was matched by the accomplished musicians on the stage. Thank you to these masters of their art for bringing these sounds to St. James Place.