Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 22, 2021

REVIEW: Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Spotlight Series

Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Hartford, CT
through May 9, 2021
by Michael J. Moran
The sixth episode in the HSO’s monthly virtual “Spotlight Series” of 60-minute concerts by HSO ensembles recorded at Hartford area venues is now available on-demand at the orchestra’s web site through May 9, 2021. Filmed at the Connecticut Historical Society and entitled “Spring Strings,” it featured eleven HSO musicians, divided into three separate groups, playing music by six diverse composers written or arranged for strings.
The HSO String Quartet (violinists Lisa Rautenberg and Martha Kayser, violist Nicholas Borghoff, and cellist Jeffrey Krieger) opened with a sprightly account of three dances that British composer Edward German wrote for an 1892 production of the Shakespeare/Fletcher play “Henry VIII:” courtly in the first; stately in the second; and dashing in the last. They followed that with a dramatic rendition of Philip Glass’s somber 1983 second string quartet, whose ten-minute length consists of four short movements merging subtly into a seamless whole.
The A Piacere Quartet (violinists Jaroslaw Lis and Deborah Tyler, violist Michael Wheeler, and cellist Jia Cao), whose name translates to “At Your Pleasure,” next gave a luscious performance of the “Andante” slow movement from Florence Price’s 1929 string quartet in G major, in which the nostalgic main theme reflects the composer’s African-American heritage. The same ensemble played George Gershwin’s lovely “Lullaby” with similar warmth and affection.   
The committed performance by the Mosaic Trio (violinist Lu Sun Friedman, violist Pat Daly Vance, and cellist Peter Zay) of the first two movements of Beethoven’s string trio in C minor captured exactly the qualities promised in Vance’s spoken introduction: “nervous energy and angst” (in the “Allegro con spirito”) and “contemplation and hope” (in the “Adagio con espressione”). Zay’s virtuosic arrangement of “Hedwig’s Theme” from the John Williams score for the film “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” drew an alternately delicate and driving account from the Trio.
The CHS acoustics were clean and straightforward. The formal attire of the masked and distanced musicians suited the historic setting. HSO Artistic Operations Manager Colette Hall offered enlightening introductions to several of the pieces and enthusiastic welcome and closing remarks.