A weekend with Puccini present, both large and small: Atlanta Opera and Peachtree String Quartet

by Mark Gresham | 8 Oct 2013

Peachtree Sreing Quartet

Peachtree String Quartet: Christopher Pulgram, John Meisner, Jennifer Humphreys and Yang-Yoon Kim

This past weekend the music of Puccini turned up in both large and small contexts. The most obvious was the opening night Atlanta Opera’s production of Tosca on Saturday, October 5. I’m not a frequent attendee of opera, but I enjoyed the show even if less critically than colleague James Paulk who reviewed the performance for ArtsATL. The remaining three performances of Tosca are tonight at 7:30pm, Friday, October 11 at 8pm and Sunday afternoon, October 13, 2013 at 3pm.

Tomer Zvulun, the AO’s new general and artistic director, spoke to the audience in advance of curtain time to thank donors and so forth, but the most interesting part was when he talked about how about 200 people were involved in this live production, onstage, backstage and in the pit, and made a point of saying that it all happens here, “not streamed from somewhere else,” which brought forth a semi-gasp and subsequent rumble amongst some of the audience in the front rows, as he was obviously referring to the Met’s internet broadcasts. Some local New York-ophiles evidently took umbrage. But Zvulun is right on target. I express it this way: A great city does not “deserve” great art, it creates great art.

The next afternoon (Sunday, October 6) Peachtree String Quartet performed the opening concert of their 2013-14 season at what one might call their “home venue,” the Garden Hills Recreation Center, uptown just southeast of the Buckhead business district in the quiet Garden Hills residential community. The quartet (violinists Christopher Pulgram and John Meisner, violist Yang-Yoon Kim and cellist Jennifer Humphreys) are all members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

There again was Puccini, this time represented by his six-minute elegy “Crisantemi” (“Chrysanthemums”) on a program wirh Haydn’s “Sunrise” String Quartet on B-flat major (Op. 76, No.4), Hugo Wolf’s brief “Italian Serenade” and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet in A minor (Op. 13).

While not a picture perfect performance, the quartet has come a long way since their formal debut last season at Garden Hills. Sunday’s concert was a happy musical experience. The group has a good, consistent following and small venue itself was pretty much full. With a good foundation of audience support, one can only look forward to their continued development as an important local chamber ensemble.

The quartet is scheduled to perform on at the Toco Hill-Avis G. Williams Library this coming Monday, Oct. 14, on behalf of an ASO outreach partnership with the DeKalb County Libraries. That will the first of a series of free chamber concerts by ASO musicians that will take place at libraries across the county, running one performance monthly through May.