Violinist Geoff Nuttall, beginning his first year as host and director of the Chamber Music Series, was determined to give the Sunday morning crowd at the Dock Street Theatre a music appreciation class on Franz Joseph Haydn's quartets.
With charm and wit, Nuttall did help us understand the opening "String Quartet in D major," Opus 20, No. 4 (1772). The resident string quartet, The St. Lawrence, launched into calm, pastoral music, until the explosion Chris Costanza already had demonstrated on his cello during our lesson. Scott St. John, violin, and Lesley Robertson, viola, clearly share Nuttall's enthusiasm for the creator of the form. They are all master interpreters of Haydn's musical sensibilities that exemplify here the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.
Bela Bartok's "Contrasts" were exactly that, in this piece commissioned by Benny Goodman. Todd Palmer's clarinet skittered and scatted over Pedja Muzijevic's piano part and Danny Phillips', violin part written originally written for Joseph Szigeti. In the third movement, titled "Fast Dance," Phillips switched to an instrument upon which he could fiddle like at a hoedown. There is no end to these musicians' versatility, fully realizing Bartok's syncopated rhythms and harmonics reminiscent of Gershwin.
Back to Bach! Muzijevic provided the obligatory (for Bach's day) obligato on piano, rather than harpsichord, while Hsin-Yun Huang played to virtual perfection the devilishly difficult viola part, making this sonata both beautiful and exciting.
And then Back to the Future! -- but only to the 1970s -- for composer/conductor/pianist Steve Prutsman's transformation of "Soundchaser" into a pianistic tour de force, a thundering ten-minute exercise in flamboyance that rocked the house.
This concert will be repeated at 11 a.m. today. Be there.