Mark Gresham | 12 MAR 2019
On Sunday afternoon the Riverside Chamber Players closed their 2018-19 season with an attractive program that was played and communicated well to their audience. The concert took place at UUMAN (Unitarian Universalist Metro Atlanta North) congregation in Roswell, Georgia, the Riverside group’s home venue. It’s a modest-sized but comfortable and acoustically satisfying space in which to hear classical chamber music.
The program opened with the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 by Russian composer Anton Arensky, performed by violinist Justin Bruns, cellist Joel Dallow and pianist Rena Fruchter (who, incidentally, also happens to be Dallow’s mom). Written in 1894, the Trio has a Romantic, autumnal feeling overall that was established by it’s lyrical, melody-laden opening movement. An optimistic Scherzo followed, with its Trio, marked meno mosso, which could have been played a little slower and given the music a skosh more breathing room.
In contrast, the slow third movement brought forth sober thoughts but nothing funereal, with a somewhat sunnier passage coming in its midst. The finale, marked Allegro non troppo, opened dramatically, then pulled in themes from the first and third movements before restating the striking principal theme in a rapidly tumbling but decisive coda.
Bruns and Dallow returned to the room with violinist Kenn Wagner and violist Jessica Oudin to perform the Quartet for Buenos Aires (“Cuarteto para Buenos Aires”) by Argentine composer Claudia Montero. According to Dallow, RCP’s artistic director, Sunday’s performance was the work’s southeastern U.S. regional premiere.
A recording if the Cuertato by the American String Quartet won Montero her second Latin Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Classical Composition” in 2016. She has emerged as a significant voice among Latin American composers, and we should expect to hear more of her music being performed stateside as ensembles like RCP become familiar with her works and her style, which undeniably “sounds like Buenos Aires.”
It’s primarily the Quartet’s tango rhythms, its passion and vital undercurrent of energy which give it that flavor. Riverside Chamber Players dug into those aspects well, bringing out the work’s Argentine character as well as Montero’s own distinctive compositional voice. ■