Mark Gresham | 25 OCT 2022
Sunday’s afternoon concert by The Atlanta Chamber Players opened and closed with pairs of works that seemed suitably allied, each pair comprised of an accompanied solo followed by a quartet.
The first pairing was a Flute Sonata No. 275 in B♭ major, QV 1:161, by Johann Joachim Quantz with the Flute Quartet No. 1 in D major (K. 285) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
In both of these, the flutist was Tia Roper — my first encounter with her playing. Roper’s bio says she most recently served as a professor of flute at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega and is currently the band director at Mill Springs Academy in Alpharetta.
Quantz (1697 – 1773) was a German composer, flutist, and flute maker of the late Baroque period who wrote hundreds of flute sonatas and concertos. He authored a significant treatise on traverso flute playing, Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen (“On Playing the Flute” – literally “Attempt at an instruction to play the transverse flute”) published in 1752. King of Prussia, Frederick II, was his student and owned 11 flutes made by Quantz.
For the Quantz Sonata, ACP artistic director and pianist Elizabeth Pridgen accompanied Roper on piano. Although Ms. Roper did not take the tempi of the first and final movements as (“Allegro di molto” and “Vivace”) as swiftly in this concert as other performers, they felt a little agitated. The “Affettuoso” middle movement was moderate and straightforward in character rather than tender. Her 2013 recording of this Sonata on the Albany label (TROY1437) comes in at just under nine-and-a-half minutes, about a minute shorter than some other commercial recordings, despite the tempered velocities of the outer movements.
Next, violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, violist Catherine Lynn, and cellist Brad Ritchie joined Roper for the well-known Mozart Flute Quartet No. 1 in D major. Written in 1777, this Quartet seems natural to program in tandem with the Quantz Sonata.
Kim, Lynn, and Ritchie have much experience performing together in chamber works, but whether any of them have previously played with Roper is yet to be discovered by this reviewer. We got secure musical interaction between the three string players, but the flute was the outlier in terms of a sense of ensemble among the players.
In the middle of the concert came a regional premiere commissioned by the Cross-Country Chamber Consortium, a nationwide group of ensembles committed to the cultivation and performance of chamber works specifically by up-and-coming creators in Black, Latin, and Indigenous communities
The commissioned work I Remember You, by composer Benjamin Horne, was performed by Kim, Ritchie, Pridgen, and clarinetist Alcides Rodrigues. “[I]nspired by those who suffer from dementia and memory loss,” the largely quiet work expresses a gentle sentiment, slowly unfolding to reveal, in the end, the melody on which the work is based, as if a memory recovered.
I Remember You was a suitable transitional piece to end the first half, stepping up the musical engagement for the listener compared to the previous works on the program. That feeling of engagement would finally solidify for the listener in the program’s second half.
After intermission, we were treated to the second instance of paired solo and quartet works. In this case, what has recently become a favorite programming gesture: A work by Clara Schumann with one by Robert Schumann.
Kim and Pridgen first performed Clara Schumann’s Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22 (1853), among the last pieces she ever composed, composing almost nothing after Robert’s death the following year. It was a lovely, emotive performance of the set of three pieces that set the stage for the final work.
Kim, Lynn, Ritchie, and Pridgen gave a compelling performance of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E♭ major, Op. 47 (1842), one of his most popular chamber works, to close the concert. It was the concluding capstone of a program that, over the course of its progress, increased in musical acuity and impact. ■
- Atlanta Chamber Players: atlantachamberplayers.com