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February 27 was a cold, rainy Wednesday, preceded by a week of similarly grey days. Those who endured the weather that night to attend the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle String Quartet’s performance at Carol Woods Assembly Hall were, however, quickly distracted from the gloomy weather outside. Violinist Niccoló Muti prefaced the program by promising that the two pieces chosen were perfect for a cold, rainy day. Indeed, Zoltán Kodály’s Intermezzo for String Trio and Antonín Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 2, Op. 77, are the type of pieces that fill a room like sunlight and remind one of happy memories. Smiles were brought to faces by the pieces themselves and by the stunning performance of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle String Quartet.
Kodaly’s Intermezzo for String Trio was first on the program and featured violinist Muti, violist Jacobus Hermsen, and cellist Rosalind Leavell. Before the trio began the piece, Muti provided a very brief description of Kodaly. He mentioned, of course, that Kodály was a contemporary of Béla Bartók and that, like Bartók, he was a talented ethnomusicologist who incorporated folk song melodies into many of his compositions. After this appropriately brief intro, the trio played the first notes of the Intermezzo. Instantly, the unique and catchy opening theme of the piece, played with energy by the trio, captured the attention of the audience. The influence of Hungarian folksongs on Kodaly’s Intermezzo is easy to distinguish and hard not to like. The rustic lilt of the piece and its natural ebb and flow were portrayed with ease by the trio of musicians so that it was impossible not to dance along in one’s mind.
Following Kodaly’s Intermezzo, violinist Sarah Griffin joined the ensemble, as did Peter Kim, a bassist who is a part of Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle’s North Carolina Student Fellowship Program, which allows collegiate level musicians to audition for the chance to receive a one-year paid fellowship with the orchestra. The selected work was Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 2, Op. 77. Dvořák wrote this piece for a contest that he ended up winning. He dedicated the piece “to my nation,” and one can certainly hear and feel Dvořák’s pride as portrayed in the rhythms and melodies of this four-movement quintet. The piece features many lovely, sentimental melodies and dancelike themes that linger in listeners’ minds in the most pleasant of ways. Despite the consistently happy mood, this piece is in no way boring. Dvořák adds variety to the composition with his ingenious exploration of the unique timbre of each instrument and by the addition of the bass. Throughout the piece, phrases and themes are frequently passed around from instrument to instrument so that the tone is ever changing and the limiting boundary between melody and harmony is broken. The third movement is especially lovely in this way. With all five instruments playing a unique and individually beautiful line of music, one cannot help but find themselves completely lost in the music. Following the quintet’s truly excellent performance of the third movement, a murmur of approval rose from the audience.
The conclusion of the piece itself earned a standing ovation that the musicians of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle certainly deserved. In every way, their performance of Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 2 was excellent. Especially noticeable was the two violinists’ ability to play perfectly in unison, creating an immensely pleasing sound. The violinists’ often high melodies were contrasted beautifully by the addition of the string bass, a part that Kim did justice with his steady and confident playing. Each musician within the ensemble displayed remarkable intonation, articulation, and a clear musical understanding. All of these strengths of the ensemble allowed the joy and pride that Dvořák expressed in writing to be made clear.
As promised by Muti, this concert program was a welcome distraction from the cold, gloomy weather outside of Carol Woods Assembly Hall. The program was short and sweet and served its purpose. Those who attended enjoyed forty-five minutes of high quality music and pleasant repertoire and left smiling at the end of the performance. One would certainly wish that more people had chosen to attend the concert, especially considering that it was free, but those who were unable to attend should free their schedules for one of the Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle’s many upcoming events, for details of which, see our calendar.