Today, Spoleto’s chamber musicians take the Dock Street Theatre stage for the last time this season. In two daily performances for the past 17 days, Director of Chamber Music Geoff Nuttall brought the intimate genre to life with his witty introductions and brilliant performances. Following are the top ten moments of the 2012 Spoleto Chamber Music Series.
10. In program VII, horn player Eric Ruske performed his own transcription of Vittorio Monti’s Csardas. Breezing through virtuosic licks uncommon to the hunting horn, Pedja Muzijevic could only laugh and applaud from his position on the piano bench when Ruske was done.
9. When pianist Inon Barnatan and cellist Alisa Weilerstein finished Messiaen’s “Louange a l’Eternite de Jesus” from “Quatuor pour la fin du temps” in program IV, silence gripped the audience for a full 20 seconds before the applause began. The moving performance transported listeners to World War II Europe, where the piece debuted in a prison camp on broken instruments.
8. Geoff Nuttall explained the fluctuating state of new music, demonstrating with Osvaldo Golijov’s 2011 “String Quartet.” Golijov wrote the piece for the St. Lawrence String Quartet, but the piece may change before their next performance, depending on what the composer thinks up. In program V, the piece painted the experience of riding a motorcycle.
7. Violinist Scott St. John strode onto the stage with a woman’s blonde wig and pink lipstick to perform the part Lucy in Jon Deak’s cheeky “Lucy and the Count (Love Dreams from Transylvania).” The story of Dracula’s obsession with the “unmanly” Lucy was told with lightning, fog, fangs and blood on the walls during program IX.
6. In program I, Nuttall’s dream was realized in the performance of a Haydn symphony, arranged for chamber ensemble. The St. Lawrence String Quartet was joined by Inon Barnatan, Tara Helen O’Connor, and Tony Manzo on bass for “The Clock.”
5. Spoleto chamber audiences were introduced to a new (old) romantic composer: Ludwig Thuille. Every bit as lush and evocative as Brahms or Schubert, the Thuille “Sextet for Piano and Winds in B-flat major, Op. 6” brought the house down during program VI.
4. Tara Helen O’Connor’s performance of “Great Train Race” during program I was the first indication that Spoleto’s chamber music series isn’t all Brahms and Beethoven. With her flute, she expertly crafted all the sounds made by a train passing a circus.
3. The world premiere of Hooshyar Khayam’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano, performed by Todd Palmer and Stephen Prutsman, took place during program VIII. Khayam was “skyped in” on a computer screen, addressed the audience, and heard his premiere from Armenia.
2. Violinists Livia Sohn and Geoff Nuttall were accompanied by cellist Christopher Costanza and harpsichordist Pedja Muzijevic in Heinrich von Biber’s “Harmonia Artificioso-Ariosa, Partita V” during program IX. The series’ commitment to lesser-known works was most rewarded here, the foursome enchanting audience members to the point of questioning why Bach is the best remembered Baroque composer.
1. Program III brought cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan to the stage for Stravinsky’s “Suite Italienne.” Weilerstein’s impassioned playing proved too much for her instrument, breaking one of the strings mid-performance. While she repaired the string backstage, conversation broke out between Barnatan and audience members, illustrating the gracious community at the Dock Street Theatre.
Leah Harrison is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.