Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 29, 2021

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Concert 2

Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Springfield, MA
through May 21, 2021
by Michael J. Moran

After presenting short weekly “Homegrown” videos of themselves performing individually at home and several lecture/music education events via Zoom, SSO musicians are now offering a series of three hour-long chamber music concerts. The second one, filmed at Focus Springfield Community TV and available for on-demand streaming at the SSO web site through May 21, featured: a string quartet; two more string players; and three percussionists.

SSO Music Director Kevin Rhodes introduced each of the program’s six pieces with his usual enthusiasm, and program notes by the performers offered additional background information. The string quartet (violinists Masako Yanagita and Marsha Harbison, violist Delores Thayer, and cellist Boris Kogan) opened with an intense, heartfelt account of the “Nocturne” slow movement from Borodin’s 1881 second string quartet. This lovely music was used in the 1953 Broadway musical “Kismet” and the 2006 Disney short film “The Little Matchgirl.”  

Nathan Lassell
Percussionist Nathan Lassell next played an arrangement for marimba of “Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum” from Debussy’s 1906 solo piano suite “Children’s Corner,” producing a delicate, shimmering sound. Violinist Beth Welty and violist Noralee Walker then brought rhapsodic energy to the first movement (“Allegro”) of Mozart’s rarely heard 1783 first string duo and soulful depth to the second movement (“Adagio”). Lassell followed with an exciting set of variations for marimba by Eric Sammut on Astor Piazzolla’s 1974 “Libertango,” accompanied by Robert McEwan on cajon, a Peruvian box-shaped drum played by slapping its front.

The string quartet returned with a dazzling performance of the dramatic last movement of Beethoven’s final string quartet, urgently following every mysterious shift of mood and tempo to its triumphant conclusion. Percussionist Martin Kluger then joined Lassell and McEwan on multiple instruments to close the concert on a raucously rhythmic note with the first movement (just as relentless as its title – “Meccanico” - sounds) of Nebojsa Jovan Zivkovic’s exhilarating 1995 “Trio Per Uno.” 

Acoustics were close and clean, while the videography nicely combined individual and group perspectives on the masked and distantly spaced players. Several top-down shots of the percussion trio were particularly revealing and entertaining.