Mark Gresham | 09 APR 2019
On Sunday afternoon the Georgian Chamber Players presented a delightfully satisfying concert of music by Kreisler, Mozart and Dvořák at Peachtree Presbyterian Church’s music-friendly Kellett Chapel.
Violinist David Coucheron and pianist Julie Coucheron opened the program with Praeludium and Allegro by legendary violinist-composer Friedrich “Fritz” Kreisler. These days the title bears the parenthetical “in the style of Pugnani,” and for good reason. When Kreisler wrote it in 1910, he falsely claimed that it was composed by the 18th-century Italian violin virtuoso Gaetano Pugnani. Kreisler was good enough at imitating Pugnani’s style that he even fooled eminent French composer Vincent d’Indy, who, as an expert researcher of works by early composers, was familiar with Pugnani.
Kreisler successfully perpetuated the hoax for years until finally outed by New York Times critic Olin Downes. Kreisler admitted it to be his own, and the scandal made worldwide news. In fact, it was only one of a number of original compositions that Kreisler had falsely attributed to other composers. Despite that, Praeludium and Allegro is among the best of Kreisler’s original works and remains a favorite of violinists. It was a fine curtain-raiser for David Coucheron, whose rendering of the technical showpiece was sunny, felicitous and forthright.
Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, K. 493, followed in its wake, with Julie Coucheron replaced by Elizabeth Pridgen at the piano, joining David Coucheron, violist Reid Harris and cellist Christopher Rex onstage.
Like his first piano quartet, the demands of this one are more suited to the skills of professionals than amateurs, with an almost concerto-like part for the piano within its chamber music context. Substantial dialogue between piano and strings took place especially in the slow second and the spirited final movement.
In contrast, another “second” in the same key, the Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87, of Antonin Dvořák, came after intermission, with Julie Coucheron returning as pianist and Julianne Lee replacing Harris on viola to perform with David and Chris. It served as a fine example of Dvořák’s most mature style and innovative approach to classical forms.
The first movement featured a lively main theme, introduced in a strong unison by all the players, which remained dominant throughout. The lovely “Lento” second movement introduced a series of five themes in its first half, then repeated the entire with various transformations.
The third movement showed affinities for the Scherzo from the composer’s Symphony No. 8, a similar kind of melancholy waltz with a livelier middle section. The final movement of the quartet sported a highly rhythmic principal theme introduced in minor mode, but which in the end made its way towards the parallel E-flat major, the key in which the Quartet began, for the work’s emphatic conclusion. ■