Bag lunch concert shines

Members of the Starling String Quartet look on as their colleagues perform Gambaro’s Quatour Concertant. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Members of the Starling String Quartet look on as their colleagues perform Gambaro’s Quatour Concertant. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

There’s something about free classical music on a cold day that warms the heart and feeds the soul, and that’s exactly what the School of Music did on Tuesday with its chamber music concert.

No one said a word as the concert began, which somehow seemed appropriate. The lack of chatter allowed listeners to put the spoken word to rest for a few minutes and concentrate on nothing but the sweet notes of ageless classics.

The concert, which featured three quartets, was nothing less than perfection. The opening piece, Quatuor Concertant, composed by Vincenzo Gambaro, was a woodwind quartet composed of master’s student in French horn performance Jackie Perez, master’s student in bassoon performance Hyunwook Bae, sophomore flute performance major Michal Zeleny, and master’s student in clarinet performance Charlotte Kies.

Zeleny’s playing was energetic yet controlled, and served as the group’s glue, for the second movement especially. With sharp, crisp notes, the flute’s lead was fluid and strong. Later in the piece, the clarinet and bassoon took over this melody in a charming duet that was wholesome and calming, contributing to the overall impression of the first piece.

In the middle was Mozart, and where there’s Wolfgang Amadeus, there’s never disappointment. Master’s student in violin performance John Kruer, senior violin performance major Kashi Elliot, master’s viola performance major Sooyi Kang, and master’s cello performance major Sarah Lee presented String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor.

The quartet may as well have been dancing on their instruments. The piece was wonderfully Wolfgang, with magnificent crescendos at all the right points. It featured balanced tones and voices, blending for a perfectly paced Allegro and a full-bodied orchestral sound from just four instruments mastered by some serious players.

The best piece, Joseph Haydn’s Op. 76 No. 5 in D major, was performed last by the Starling String Quartet. The piece was a surprise, spirited enough to surpass the Mozart that preceded it. The performers — Artist’s Certificate student in violin performance Erica Richardson, senior violin performance major Erica Hudson, Artist’s Certificate student in viola performance Ai-Wen Thian, and Marlene Ballena, a cello player in the Performance Residency Program — possessed a true synchronous energy, moving, playing, and even seeming to breathe as one.

The “Allegretto” first movement was bright, flowery, and cheerful, rising and soaring without ever seeming to come down from its ecstatic heights. Even the slower second movement still had an undeniable pulse of energy — albeit more relaxed and full — and featured unexpected viola and cello solos that were powerfully executed.

The final movement, “Finale Presto,” was the crème de la crème. From the striking first note through the runs of musical harmony that positively cavorted through the rest of the movement, the piece was purely stunning. The entire movement was energetic, upbeat, and inspiring: a perfect end to a perfect concert.

The massively unattended concert, which took place in McConomy Auditorium, redefined the phrase “intimate affair”: There were fewer than five people in the audience. This is a tragic example of how the relaxing power of classical music is underestimated today. Classical music is often regarded as aged and outdated, when in actuality, it’s as relevant and culturally enriching as it was during the century in which it was written.

Next time there’s a chill in the air, wander over to the School of Music and let the magic begin.