Daily Archives: November 21, 2016

Pieces of Eight: Georgian Chamber Players perform eight-handed piano music, Mendelssohn’s Octet

by Mark Gresham | 21 NOV 2016

Julie Coucheron, William Ransom, Elana Cholakova and Elizabeth Pridgen perform Mozart's Overture to Don Giovanni, transcribed for two pianos, eight hands. (all photos: Mark Gresham)

Julie Coucheron, William Ransom, Elana Cholakova and Elizabeth Pridgen perform Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni, transcribed for two pianos, eight hands. (all photos: Mark Gresham)

On Sunday afternoon, November 20, the Georgian Chamber Players performed a concert of music by Mozart, Saint-Saëns, Ernst Bach, Sousa and Mendelssohn at Peachtree Presbyterian Church’s Kellett Chapel, located in Atlanta’s uptown Buckhead neighborhood.

The first half of the program was mostly comprised of transcriptions for two pianos, eight hands performed by pianists Julie Coucheron, Elizabeth Pridgen, Elena Cholakova and William Ransom. The original order of the first two were swapped from that in the printed program, with W.A. Mozart’s Overture to Don Giovanni taking the opening slot, followed by the devilish Danss macabre, Op. 40, by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Ransom, Coucheron and Pridgen get cozy in Ernst Bach's "Das Dreyblatt."

Ransom, Coucheron and Pridgen get cozy in Ernst Bach’s “Das Dreyblatt.”

The exception was a curiosity, Der Drayblatt (“The Threesome”) by W.F. Ernst Bach, a grandson of J.S. Bach, for one piano, six hands – performed by Pridgen, Couchette and Ransom. It’s a clever work, if perhaps scandalous for its day, as the composer called for it to be performed with one male pianist in the middle and two petite females on either side of him, with the gentleman stretching his arms around the ladies’ waists to play the outside-most parts. Whether or not Bach’s suggested genders are heeded in our day, the player seated in the middle would preferably have long arms.

Cholakova returned to join the other three pianists for Mack Wilberg’s transcription of John Philip Sousa’s march, The Stars and Stripes Forever. It’s a genuine transcription, in that among other flourishes, Wilberg takes the final statement of the trio, the grandioso, up a half step. The march wrapped the first half of the concert on an upbeat, cheerful note.

Mendelssohn's Octet in E-flat major concluded the concert.

Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major concluded the concert.

The concert concluded with a vibrant, engaging performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20, written when the composer was 16 years old — a musically mature composition for someone that age. The performers were violinists David Coucheron, Justin Bruns, Jun-Ching Lin and Mark Huggins; violists Reid Harris and Paul Murphy; and cellists Christopher Rex and Daniel Laufer. All are prominent members of the Atlanta Symphpny Orchestra with the exception of visiting guest violinist Huggins, who is associate concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

All in all, it was an interesting, consistently delightful concert for a late Sunday afternoon.

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