Mark Gresham | 07 NOV 2019
The Georgian Chamber Players opened their season on Sunday at Kellett Chapel with a concert of music by Bruch, Beethoven and Schubert. It was a strong, well-played performance that made for a fine late afternoon musical outing.
The program opened with Max Bruch’s Romanze in F major, Op. 85, for viola and piano, performed by violist Julianne Lee and pianist Elizabeth Pridgen. Lee is principal second violinist of the Atlanta Symphony, but since she joined the ASO in the 2017-18 season she has also frequently plays viola in chamber music concerts around town. This, however, appears to be her first outing performing locally as soloist on viola.
Bruch wrote two works titled Romanze (or “Romance”): one for violin (Op. 42) in 1874, and this one (Op.85) for viola, in 1911, although it is sometimes heard in an arrangement for violin. because Le plays both instruments, that’s important to know, s the program list didn’t say which (though the program notes offered necessary clues). The Op. 85 Romanze was written late in Bruch’s life during a period when he showed significant favor toward the viola in his compositions. Although the none-minute work received little attention from prominent violists during the early twentieth century, it is now a favorite among the standard repertoire for the instrument.
There is some debate among violists as to whether a dedicated violist plays the instrument differently, in a telling manner, than a violinist who also plays viola. Lee gave us no cause for that debate, given her enjoyable, warm-voiced performance.
Rainer Eudeikis is the new principal cellist of the ASO, new to Georgian Chamber Players, and, similarly to Ms. Lee, this was also his first appearance as a solo cellist in a local chamber concert, performing Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 3, Op. 69, with pianist Julie Coucheron.
Written in 1808, during his middle period,it was the first Beethoven had had written since two cello sonatas of Op. 5, written a dozen years earlier when common practice was to write a “piano sonata with instrumental accompaniment.” Instead, No. 3 gives the two instruments equal importance; likely the first cello sonata to do so. It stands as an essential part of the cello repertoire.
Not only a balance of roles, Sunday’s performance was a good balance of head and heart, classical and romantic sentiments in this mature work, the “middle child” of the five he wrote in all, the last two being the more complex, visionary pair of sonatas of Op. 102 that would come seven years later. The pivotal No. 3 was a good, solid place for Eudeikis to introduce himself to Atlanta’s chamber-and-recital audiences.
The second half of the program was Schubert’s String Quintet in C major (D. 956), his final instrumental chamber work, arguably his finest, completed just two months before the composer’s death. It is notable, though not uniquely so, because it includes an second cello instead of the more conventional inclusion of a second viola.
It was a treat to hear this sublime, emotionally deep work performed with both current ASO cellist Eudeikis and former ASO principal cellist Christopher Rex together, with violist Lee, along with ASO concertmaster David Coucheron and Helen Kim, two violinists whose playing pair well in chamber music. The Quintet proved the capstone of the concert. ■