Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

May 13, 2021

REVIEW: Springfield Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Concert 3

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

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

SSO Music Director Kevin Rhodes introduced each piece on the program with typical gusto, and program notes by the performers offered additional background information. Percussionist Nathan Lassell opened with an entertaining solo performance of Rick Dior’s improvisation “Brush Up” for two brushes and snare drum. Featuring brush techniques like “rim flutters…staccato sweeps [and] one-handed tremolos,” it was as much fun to watch as Lassell says it is to play.  

Delores Thayer
The string quartet (violinists Masako Yanagita and Marsha Harbison, violist Delores Thayer, and cellist Boris Kogan) next played what Rhodes called the “anything can happen” “Allegretto” movement of Beethoven’s eighth quartet with close attention to the frequent shifts of rhythm and dynamics, bringing special fervor to the Russian patriotic song quoted in the middle section. The string trio (violinist Beth Welty, violist Noralee Walker, and cellist Joel Wolfe) then played two movements of Beethoven’s early Mozart-like first string trio with graceful flair (in the “Andante”) and spirited humor (in the “Menuetto”).

Lassell returned on snare drum for two amusingly titled drum solos – “Cider Jug” and “Conquering Legions of Rome” - by West Point “Hellcats” composer John S. Pratt, with Robert McEwan, who composed and played the bass drum parts. The string trio then preformed the first two movements of Erno Dohnanyi’s 1902 “Serenade,” stirringly in the lively “March” and tenderly in the quiet “Romance,” highlighted by Walker’s soulful viola. 

Percussionist Martin Kluger joined Lassell and McEwan in the last two movements (they had played the first movement in concert #2) of Zivkovic’s exuberant 1995 “Trio Per Uno,” featuring hypnotic vibes and shimmering glass chimes in the hushed “Contemplativo” and, in Kluger’s words, “a ritual ceremony of primitive ferocity [with] thumping tom-toms and vocal outbursts” in the wild closing “Molto energico.” Acoustics were straightforward, with resourceful videography.