Saturday, July 04, 2009

Free Music!

And not the downloadable kind, the living, breathing, sweating stuff.

My friend Nick tipped me off to some free lunchtime concerts in connection with the St. Lawrence String Quartet's Chamber Music seminar at Stanford this week. I made it to the Friday performance. Not only was it free,
the concert was pleasantly informal. The performers were dressed fairly casually, and simple introductions were provided by one of the SLSQ violinists (Nuttall, I think. The blond guy proudly sporting a very tacky shirt).

The show began with SLSQ's friends (and fellow Canadians) The Gryphon Trio- a piano/cello/violin ensemble- performing Haydn's Piano Trio in C Major (Hoboken 15/?).
They were wonderful. The cellist was really entertaining to watch, all swaying and exaggerated facial expressions, but it was the violinist who caught my ear. After thundering applause and a couple of rounds of bows, they were quickly replaced onstage by the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

The SLSQ, celebrating its 20th year together, performed Dvorak's Opus 106 (String Quartet No. 13 in G Major). Delightful. The man with the bad shirt introduced the piece with a background story. Dvorak* was the director at the National Conservatory of Music of America from 1892 to '95. By that time he was already very well known in Europe, but he accepted the position in New York because the salary of $15,000 was about ten times that he was earning in Prague. Though fruitful professionally, Dvorak suffered from terrible homesickness while in the US. The first couple of works he completed after his return to Europe (Opus 105/106) were thus emotionally charged with his happiness at being home.

There's something wonderfully intimate about chamber music. Though we arrived just before the performance began and the hall was nearly full, we were able to sit just a few rows from the front, at close to stage level. Near enough to clearly see the fingering, facial expressions, sweat, etc. of the musicians. You can't beat the live music experience.

*Coincidentally, I recently ripped a couple of Dvorak piano trios from among the substantial music collection at my local library.


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