Members of the faculty of the Eastern Music Festival gathered Monday night in the UNCG School of Music, Theatre, and Dance Recital Hall before a large audience. Works by Beethoven, David Diamond, and Mozart provided the coupling of the familiar with the obscure.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) wrote the Cello Sonata in D, Op. 102, No. 2 in 1815. It is a work that bridges his middle period (the “heroic” style) with his late period (“reflection”). Cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Marika Bournaki provided a solid reading of the three-movement work.

The opening Allegro con brio begins with a brilliant outburst from the piano, followed by a more lyric, intimate passage from the cello. Indeed, the entire movement explores the loud contrasting the soft, the extroverted and the intimate. Both musicians made the most of these juxtapositions.

The heart of the piece is found in the Adagio con molto sentiment d’affetto (“Slow with much sentiment of affection”), a soulful, intense heart-rending movement that comes from the melancholy Beethoven frequently experienced. Schwarz’s beautiful playing captured the powerful pathos.

The finale Allegro, a dance-like fugue with tons of independent lines, hints at one of the stylistic traits of Beethoven’s late period. Here both Schwarz and Bournaki solidly presented their individual lines with clarity and good humor.

EMF is celebrating the centennial of American composer David Diamond (1915-2005) with performances of both orchestral and chamber works. His 17-minute Concerto for String Quartet (1936), written at the age of twenty-one, was performed this evening. Diamond understood the unusual title (a concerto usually features a solo instrument with an orchestra) saying ” . . . each movement is going to give one of the instruments of the quartet solo prominence accompanied by the three others…”

Despite the composer’s comment, one is hard pressed to determine which instrument is spotlighted in each movement (except in the third, where the cello is front and center). For the most part, the instruments play as four equals in robust dialogue. Violinists Elizabeth Phelps and Anne Donaldson, violist Meredith Crawford, and cellist Rebecca Zimmerman energetically tackled this interesting and sometimes thorny work.

The opening Sinfonia: Allegro con energia provides a key to Diamond’s style – independent lines abound, with each musician forging her own individual space. The second movement Capriccio: Molto vivo occasionally sounded like a fun, fractured waltz that all four musicians seemed to delight in.

As in the Beethoven sonata, the Aria: Adagio is an incredibly intense movement. Zimmerman gave full rein to the deeply felt emotional tune that exploits the entire range of the instrument. The other three frequently coalesced on an ethereal cadence with the cello. The Scherzo finale: Allegro giocoso, again like the Beethoven, is a fugue – here a joyful and tripping tune that engages all four players equally.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) wrote the Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581 for his music friend, the famed clarinetist Anton Stadler, who with Mozart (playing viola) premiered the work in 1789. Clarinetist Shannon Scott, violinists Jenny Grégoire and Lucas Guideri, violist Chauncey Patterson, and cellist Amy Frost Baumgarten gave the work a warm and enticing performance.

The opening Allegro is a leisurely-paced movement that exudes good humor and companionship, and all five musicians embraced the conversational style. The Larghetto gives the clarinet a luscious melody, lovingly and beautifully spun out by Scott who used the occasion to demonstrate the gorgeous timbre of her instrument.

The Menuetto initially had some ensemble problems, which the quintet quickly rectified. Interestingly, the clarinet lays out of the music dialogue in the first Trio, but fully participates in the second. The final Allegretto con variazioni is based on a cute tune, with predictable, square phrases, until the conclusion, where Mozart cleverly toys with the tempo with a couple of pauses.

Throughout the piece, the five musicians worked as a unit, with Scott and Grégoire taking the lead, although Baumgarten frequently got to come to the fore. 

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