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Mar 12, 2018 11:20 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Music Review: Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival's Spring Series Begins With A Delightful Evening

Mar 13, 2018 12:30 PM

It is hard to imagine, but this year marks the 35th season of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival.

Because it is the longest running classical music event on the East End, it is tempting to call it “venerable.” Yet the youthful energy and imagination of the event’s artistic director, flutist Marya Martin, belies such a description. In 2015 the festival added two more concerts in the spring, and in 2016 yet another. It is, in fact, one of the biggest and most prestigious music festivals in the country.

This past Saturday we heard the first concert of the spring season of 2018 in the beautiful and historic Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church. Performers were Ms. Martin on the flute, pianist Orion Weiss, violinist Erin Keefe, violist Hsin-Yun Huang, and cellist Peter Wiley.

The first work on the program was Bohuslav Martinu’s Trio for Flute, Cello, and Piano. Martinu is widely considered one of the great Czech composers of the 20th century. He lived in Paris from 1923 to 1940 until the Nazis overran France, and then from 1941 to 1953 in the United States. Martinu fuses Czech rhythms and harmonies with a French melodic and tonal palette. It is also possible to detect some American influences in the trio’s musical fabric. Vergil Thomson described it as “a gem of bright sound and cheerful sentiment.” The performance was a marvel of music-making, taking these three very different sonorities, and blending them into a seamless whole. Ms. Martin has a bright, penetrating tone that is never harsh or shrill, and has a sure rapport with her colleagues.

The central work of the evening was the Mozart Piano Quartet in G minor, K. 478, in which Mr. Weiss and Mr. Wiley were joined by Ms. Keefe and Ms. Huang. The work was a novelty in its day in that each of the instruments carried equal weight. Prior to this, it was customary for the piano to be joined with the cello as part of the continuo, providing a filled-out bass part to support the higher strings. Cast in Mozart’s most dramatic key, the work certainly goes far beyond the conventional domestic character of similar chamber works. The writing for piano skillfully juxtaposes passages of concerto-like virtuosity with others in which the instrument fades and blends into the texture of the strings.

In this work Mozart provided a virtuosic piano part, possibly thinking that he would be the pianist in the first performance. Mr. Weiss was fully up to the challenge. His lyricism shone. Mr. Wiley gave a deep-in-the strings traversal of the cello part. Ms. Keefe and Ms. Huang gave equally absorbing performances in the true spirit of chamber music.

The final work of the evening was Dvorak’s Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 87. Though this was written during Dvorak’s nationalistic period, it doesn’t show an extensive use of folk-like themes—but there are moments. Those moments were fresh and lovely, gleaming with bright melodies, glowing harmonies, and piquant rhythms. The quartet opens with a forceful unison. If one is allowed a favorite movement, mine would be the third, which introduces a landler, a kind of peasant dance, precursor to the waltz. The piano reproduces the sound of a cembalom, or hammered dulcimer, a popular Czech folk instrument. The finale flew like the wind, making great demands on these musicians. It is orchestral in it power and complexity. One marveled throughout at the flawless sense of ensemble.

This was a delightful evening and we look forward to more of the same in the next two months and throughout the summer.

There will be two more performances at the Bridgehampton church: one on April 7, with the Pacifica Quartet, and another on May 5, featuring wind music.

To order tickets, call the festival office at 212-741-9403, or go to bcmf.org.

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