On Sunday afternoon, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, the Montreat College Friends of Music presented the North Greenville University Chamber Players at the Chapel of the Prodigal on the Montreat College campus. This chamber ensemble consisted of cellist Brenda Leonard, bassoonist Sonja Coppenbarger, flutist Joy Sears, violinists Dr. Leslie Taylor Warlick and Michael Weaver, French horn player Dr. Darian Washington, and pianist Fabio Parrini. The North Greenville University Chamber Players delivered delightful performances of chamber music ranging from baroque to romantic.
Opening the concert were four movements from François Couperin's Concert Royal No. 4, featuring Joy Sears, Sonja Coppenbarger, and Fabio Parrini. Opening the Prelude was a delicate flute melody played by Sears, who was quickly joined by Coppenbarger and Parrini. It ended with a rich and warm bassoon part that expanded into the lower registers, resonating into the rafters of the chapel. As the piece moved into the Allemande, it was evident that the performers were in perfect synchronization with each other. The chapel acoustics were extremely accommodating for the trio, and the balance was exceptional throughout the entire piece. Style changed once more when the performers began the Rigadon with playful, bouncy lines, with a lyrical underpinning in the bassoon. At one point, flutist Sears dove into the rich, sonorous register, allowing sound to just ring in the room. Their last section of the Concert Royal No. 4 was Forlane en Rondeau. All three performers did a marvelous job matching articulations and artistic styles as the movement progressed. Sears, Coppenbarger, and Parrini truly encapsulated typical Baroque musical style with phrasing, dynamic contrast, and articulation that were delicate and light, yet moving. The playing just seemed extremely easy for them, which made listening enjoyable.
Following the Couperin was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Sonata (Duo) in B-flat, for bassoon and cello. Cellist Brenda Leonard joined bassoonist Sonja Coppenbarger in a musical conversation that opened the Allegro movement. This duet featured complex passages that flowed effortlessly from the bassoon. Musical ideas were constantly handed from cellist to bassoonist, and the transitions were seamless; handled expertly by the duo. Mozart's lyrical Andante presented a constant merging and departing from unisons between Coppenbarger and Leonard. Every time they approached unison, the bassoon and cello rang out in beautiful balance and blend. Only a couple of times did the duet seem even the slightest bit out of tune, but it recovered quickly, and the beautifully expressive movement continued onward. A lively Rondo closed out Mozart's Sonata with varied articulations and even more musical conversation between the performers. The close of this movement was a beautiful unison between Coppenbarger and Leonard that echoed in the chapel.
Just before the intermission, flutist Joy Sears, violinist Michael Weaver, and cellist Brenda Leonard performed the Trio Concertante in C by Ignace Joseph Pleyel. This piece contained beautiful embellishments, clean technical work done by all performers, and expressiveness very characteristic of late 18th century music. Musical conversation flowed between the performers and a dotted rhythmic figure danced across the last movement.
Immediately following the intermission, the North Greenville University Chamber Players changed styles completely and played Johannes Brahms' Trio, Op. 40, for violin, horn, and piano. This extremely romantic piece Andante movement opened with a violin glissando, quickly joined by the piano and horn, whose mellow timbre rang throughout the chapel. Tension built among the performers as the movement progressed, giving the movement forward momentum. It was closed by large swells with rapid decays and a well-executed violin and horn duet. The next movement, Scherzo, Allegro opened with a lively piano passage. When the rest of the trio joined, sound filled the room, making it seem as if there were a larger ensemble present. Pianos and fortes were interchanged regularly, creating the element of surprise as to what would come next. Staccato descending lines between the violin and piano were clean and concise, as more tension appeared throughout the movement. The Adagio mesto delivered a considerable change of pace as the piano began to play quietly and calmly. The performers delivered a remarkable degree of control throughout the movement, treating each note with intimate care. The riveting Finale, Allegro con brio, contains syncopations and joyous horn calls. The movement grew with intensity and excitement. Musical ideas were passed from one performer to the next, as constantly modulating passages swirled in the music. Brahms' Trio came to a grandiose ending with unexpected pauses in the music. The North Greenville University Chamber Players received a standing ovation from the audience.
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