Clockwise from left: David Coucheron, Julianne Lee, Elizabeth Pridgen, Zhenwei Shi & Rainer Eudeikis perform Dvořák's Piano Quintet in A major. (video frame, GCP)

Georgian Chamber Players unmask for Beethoven and Dvořák

GEORGIAN CHAMBER PLAYERS
June 8, 2021
Streamed from First Presbyterian Church, Atlanta
David Coucheron & Julianne Lee, violins; Zhenwei Shi, viola; Christopher Rex & Rainer Eudeikis, cellos; Elizabeth Pridgen & Julie Coucheron, pianos

BEETHOVEN: Piano Trio in E♭ major, Op. 1 No. 1
DVOŘÁK: Piano Quintet No. 2 in A major, Op. 81

MARK GRESHAM | 10 JUN 2021

The Georgian Chamber Players returned to the virtual stage on Tuesday at First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta with music by Beethoven and Dvořák. This time, without wearing masks, unlike the last time EarRelevant reviewed them in November 2020, when masks were obligatory. There still was no live audience, virtual only, but progress is progress as we hopefully work our way completely out of pandemic mode by Fall when most groups, large and small, open their regular seasons.


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The three Piano Trios that constitute Beethoven’s Op. 1 were not his first published compositions, but were the earliest ones he thought were both substantial and marketable enough to assign an Opus number. They were premiered and published in 1795, when the composer was 24 years old.

Georgian Chamber Players chose the first of these, the one in E♭ major, to open this program. It was delightfully performed by violinist Julianne Lee, cellist Christopher Rex and pianist Elizabeth Pridgen.

Julianne Lee, Elizabeth Pridgen and Christopher Rex perform Beethoven's Piano Trio, Op. 1 No. 1. (video frame, GCP)

Julianne Lee, Elizabeth Pridgen and Christopher Rex perform Beethoven’s Piano Trio, Op. 1 No. 1. (video frame, GCP)

Although the video presented the next piece as Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A major, there were actually two of them. The first A major Quintet, numbered Op. 5, was not published, the manuscript either lost or destroyed after its premiere due to his dissatisfaction. Ultimately, Dvořák had to borrow a copy from a friend when he went about revising it in 1887, and even then the revision was set aside left unperformed until after his death in 1922.

That same tear, between August 18 and October 8, 1887, Dvořák went about composing and entirely new Piano Quintet in A major, Op. 81, published by Simrock with that name, but which we now know as No. 2. This one was premiered the following January in Prague. It is acknowledged as one of the great masterpieces in the form, embracing both Dvořák’s personal expressive lyricism and Czech folk music through original tunes in authentic folk style.


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The opening movement (“Allegro, ma non tanto”) opens quietly with the lyrical principal theme introduced by the cello and the busier second theme by the viola. Both themes are developed extensively over the course of the sonata-allegro form and the movement ends exuberantly.

The second movement is a “Dumka” in the form of a seven-part rondo which features a melancholy theme that alternates with fast, happy interludes. Each time the original Dumka theme returns it appears with enriched texture. The third movement is a Furiant with a slower trio section derived from the furiant theme, setting the stage for the polka in the spirited Finale.

This very fine performance was given by violinists David Coucheron and Julianne Lee, violist Zhenwei Shi, cellist Rainer Eudeikis and pianist Julie Coucheron.

Tuesday’s video stream will be repeated on Sunday, June 13 at 3:00pm, with free access points available at www.georgianchamberplayers.org/concerts. ■


Mark Gresham is publisher and principal writer for EarRelevant. He has been a music journalist for over 30 years, and a composer of music for much longer than that.

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