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Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val and Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale con­certs

The noon recitals of the Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val have proved pop­u­lar with au­di­ences, and for good rea­son. It can be very pleas­ant to pop in­side to lis­ten to mu­sic for an hour or so while the sun reigns on high and then get on with your day. On July 20, the noon­time con­cert at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium was packed to the gills.

The pro­gram opened with a group of solo pieces ren­dered by gui­tarist Łukasz Kuropaczewski, whose in­stru­ment (an acous­tic gui­tar, of course) was am­pli­fied so it could be heard through­out the hall. His ma­te­rial was of the slight­est sort. He opened with six ar­range­ments of Cata­lan folk­songs as set by the Barcelona-born gui­tarist Miguel Llo­bet Solés, in 1899 and the years fol­low­ing. For un­ex­plained rea­sons, they were given here in ar­range­ments by Manuel Bar­rueco; one might have sup­posed that, since Llo­bet was a vir­tu­oso gui­tarist him­self, his orig­i­nal set­tings would have been id­iomatic for the in­stru­ment and just as he wanted them. Many lis­ten­ers will have rec­og­nized one of these tunes, “El noi de la Mare” (The Child of the Mother); An­drés Se­govia made this set­ting fa­mous in con­cert and in record­ings, it was a recital stan­dard for Vic­to­ria de los An­ge­les and José Car­reras (among others), and choirs in­tone it at Christ­mas in John Rut­ter’s ar­range­ment, to the words “What shall we give to the son of the Vir­gin?” Two fur­ther Bar­rueco ar­range­ments fol­lowed, in both cases solo-gui­tar tran­scrip­tions of Pa­ganini sonatas orig­i­nally penned for vi­o­lin and gui­tar. Kuropaczewski im­posed ex­treme ru­bato and other Ro­man­ti­ciz­ing touches on his in­ter­pre­ta­tions. The re­sult was ami­able in the folk­song set­tings, but it was hard to find one’s sea legs as the Pa­ganini swooped about in rhythms and tem­pos that con­stantly waxed and waned.

Mozart’s D-ma­jor String Quin­tet (K. 593) is mu­sic of an en­tirely dif­fer­ent or­der, a mas­ter­work com­pleted just about a year be­fore the com­poser’s death. It was en­trusted to the ca­pa­ble hands and arms of vi­o­lin­ists Jen­nifer Frautschi and Daniel Hope, vi­o­lists Paul Neubauer and Car­laMaria Ro­drigues, and cel­list Clive Green­smith. For the fast move­ments they chose tem­pos a shade more stately than the norm, which yielded a sub­dued char­ac­ter. The en­sem­ble’s sound was rel­a­tively bright over­all but it as­sumed greater mel­low­ness in the su­per­nal Ada­gio, where Neubauer added es­pe­cially el­e­gant touches. The con­clud­ing Al­le­gro presents a tex­tual prob­lem in that its main theme is con­fig­ured dif­fer­ently in the work’s first edi­tion than in Mozart’s man­u­script — same gen­eral con­tour, but dif­fer­ent fil­i­gree. The play­ers fol­lowed the man­u­script’s ver­sion, which is built on de­scend­ing chro­matic scales. The other, which in­volves a skip­ping fig­u­ra­tion, lends a rather giddy feel­ing. This group chose the one that has more go­ing for it from a mu­si­co­log­i­cal stand­point, and it was bet­ter suited to the pen­sive out­look of their treat­ment in gen­eral.

Aword may be in or­der about the mo­ment in Mozart’s ca­reer that gave rise to this piece. The Fes­ti­val’s pro­gram note stated: “1790 was not a good year for Mozart com­po­si­tion­ally. Af­ter he com­pleted what would be his fi­nal string quar­tet (in F Ma­jor, K. 590), the fall and early win­ter saw him pro­duce only a comic duet, some ar­range­ments of two works of Han­del, and this mas­ter­ful, unique, and penul­ti­mate String Quin­tet.” Not­ing that “an am­bigu­ous un­ease seems to lurk just be­neath the sur­face,” it con­cludes, “It is per­haps too tempt­ing in hind­sight to spec­u­late that, for all the tri­als of 1790, Mozart sensed that 1791 would be worse: within a year he would be dead.” I would agree that one should not spec­u­late that, and I worry that even with the pro­viso, say­ing such a thing plays un­nec­es­sar­ily into the “Mozart myth” that be­came es­tab­lished in the Ro­man­tic era — the idea that he fore­saw his death ap­proach­ing and that his late com­po­si­tions re­flect that pre­mo­ni­tion. There is no rea­son to be­lieve that he had the slight­est inkling of his im­pend­ing demise. He en­joyed gen­er­ally good health un­til he fell ill in midto-late Novem­ber 1791, not more than three weeks be­fore he died on Dec. 5. Un­til those fi­nal weeks, his ca­reer was go­ing very well; he was ful­fill­ing his min­i­mal du­ties as Court Cham­ber Mu­si­cian, an ap­point­ment of which he was proud and which he as­sumed would lead to still greater things. He was not liv­ing un­der a shadow, nor was he in­ac­tive as a com­poser. While he did com­plete rather few pieces dur­ing the sec­ond half of 1790, he was nonethe­less

busy pro­duc­ing what are termed “frag­ments,” not fleet­ing sketches but rather chunks of com­po­si­tions worked out in some de­tail. Mu­si­col­o­gists had got­ten into the habit of sim­ply ig­nor­ing un­fin­ished pieces, but they now ap­pre­ci­ate that frag­ments count, too. The em­i­nent scholar Christoph Wolff dis­cusses this lu­cidly in his 2012 book Mozart at the Gate­way to

His For­tune — Serv­ing the Em­peror: 1788-1791 .He views these plen­ti­ful frag­ments as mnemon­ics that would help the com­poser write out a piece that was al­ready formed in his mind, once he found the time, and he in­ves­ti­gates how they doc­u­ment the progress of Mozart’s mu­si­cal think­ing even if they are not des­tined for the con­cert hall. It seems that the mu­sic Mozart wrote in 1790 did not rep­re­sent a slow­down in his de­vel­op­ment, even if he left it to pos­ter­ity in only frag­men­tary form.

On the evening of July 24 (re­peat­ing a pro­gram from the night be­fore), the Fes­ti­val pre­sented two fa­mil­iar clas­sics and a rar­ity, also at St. Fran­cis Au­di­to­rium. The first piece, Schu­mann’s Märch­en­erzäh­lun­gen, was played by clar­inetist Todd Levy, vi­o­list Ro­drigues, and pi­anist Jon Kimura Parker. At least the first two mu­si­cians surely know the piece chap­ter and verse — it is an es­sen­tial en­try in the clar­inet and vi­ola lit­er­a­ture — but the per­for­mance sounded un­der-re­hearsed, as if the par­tic­i­pants were each in­ter­pret­ing their mu­sic as re­mem­bered from past con­certs they had given but had not quite landed on what to do with it this time. These four char­ac­ter pieces were short on in­di­vid­ual per­son­al­i­ties. Far more re­ward­ing was Beethoven’s Pi­ano Trio in C mi­nor (Op. 1, No. 3), in which Parker was joined by Frautschi and cel­list Mark Kosower. Al­ready in the first move­ment their in­ter­pre­ta­tion was com­mit­ted and in­volv­ing, to­tally “in the zone.” The play­ers were well matched and yet in­jected in­di­vid­u­al­ism into the equa­tion. Frautschi dis­played a win­ning com­bi­na­tion of vi­o­lin­is­tic dis­ci­pline plus emo­tive con­cen­tra­tion, while Parker im­pressed through his care­fully bal­anced voic­ing and, in the third move­ment, bub­bling good hu­mor. (Did he re­ally sub­sti­tute a glis­sando for the de­scend­ing oc­tave scales at the end of that move­ment’s Trio sec­tion? Yea or nay, that mo­ment earned a sur­prised and de­lighted smile from me.)

Af­ter in­ter­mis­sion came the rar­ity, the String Quin­tet in A ma­jor (Op. 39) by Alexan­der Glazunov. He flick­ered across Santa Feans’ radars re­cently; in the af­ter­math of the po­lit­i­cal brouhaha that en­veloped Niko­lai Rim­sky-Kor­sakov at the St. Peters­burg Con­ser­va­tory in 1905 — and that seems to have fed to some de­gree into his opera The Golden Cock­erel, now play­ing at Santa Fe Opera — it was Glazunov who was named the school’s di­rec­tor and was charged with restor­ing or­der. His Quin­tet pre­dates all that, though, hav­ing been writ­ten in 1891-1892. It re­ceived a splen­did per­for­mance from vi­o­lin­ists Rachel Bar­ton Pine and Frautschi, vi­o­list Neubauer, and cel­lists Kosower and Green­smith — im­pres­sive string-play­ing through and through, with the two cel­los at the bot­tom lend­ing great warmth. Glazunov’s piece stands with one foot in the sa­lon and per­haps one toe of the other test­ing the cli­mate of the steppes. He was no ram­pant mu­si­cal na­tion­al­ist like Rim­sky-Kor­sakov, who was his teacher and friend, and his oc­ca­sional nods to tra­di­tional Rus­sian modal­ity or melody feel more du­ti­ful than deeply felt. In­stead, he was a com­poser of a more Tchaikovskian mold, and the dense har­monies of the piece’s third move­ment even sum­moned up Grieg. No over­looked mas­ter­piece lurks in these pages, but one could hardly imag­ine a bet­ter per­for­mance of this thor­oughly en­joy­able com­po­si­tion. It was a per­fectly pleas­ant way to pass a half-hour.

The sum­mer sea­son of the Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale is also up and run­ning. Of the group’s four pro­grams this sea­son, the one I had looked for­ward to the most (be­ing an early-mu­sic afi­cionado) was the one ti­tled Mu­sic for a Se­cret Chapel, which was de­scribed as fo­cus­ing on mu­sic by the English­man Wil­liam Byrd and Ro­man com­posers of his day, most es­pe­cially Gio­vanni Pier­lugi da Palest­rina — the idea be­ing to un­der­score ten­sions be­tween Catholic and Protes­tant com­mu­ni­ties in the late Re­nais­sance. I re­gret­ted that I was un­able to be at the open­ing per­for­mance of this pro­gram, the more so since sched­ule con­flicts with other con­certs would pre­vent me from at­tend­ing later go-rounds (which in­clude up­com­ing dates in Al­bu­querque on July 29 and in Santa Fe on Aug. 2 and Aug. 9). The best so­lu­tion was to catch ex­cerpts from the pro­gram at First Pres­by­te­rian Church on July 20, and that, I am afraid, less­ened my dis­ap­point­ment over not hear­ing more.

The re­duced pro­gram in­volved five of the nine singers in­volved in the full pro­gram (three women, two men), and seven of its 15 com­po­si­tions. In fact, even the full pro­gram lacks a real cen­ter, con­tain­ing only three pieces by Byrd and four con­tem­po­rary sa­cred works from Rome (and also one slightly later Ro­man one). The rest is a miscellany of short pieces, a for­mula fa­mil­iar to the Desert Cho­rale’s au­di­ences. The ex­cerpted pro­gram I heard in­cluded one work each by Byrd and Palest­rina — Ave verum Cor­pus and

Su­per flu­mina Baby­lo­nis, re­spec­tively, both qual­i­fy­ing as among the most fa­mous and fre­quently an­thol­o­gized pieces by their com­posers. Also on the pro­gram were a song-chant by the me­dieval abbess Hilde­gard von Bin­gen, Josquin des Prez’s Ave Maria (also his most fa­mil­iar chest­nut), an ex­am­ple of Sarum chant (Catholic chant as sung in early Eng­land), a motet by the Dutch com­poser Jan Pi­eter­szoon Sweel­inck (whose life over­lapped with those of Byrd and Palest­rina), and a se­lec­tion by the Ital­ian madri­gal­ist Luca Maren­zio.

The one-on-a-part singers were adept but are surely bet­ter suited to choir work than to solo ex­po­sure. The church’s acous­tics, which are dry as a bone, mag­nify any in­ac­cu­ra­cies of pitch (which were not as scarce as one might have wished), and are characteristically un­help­ful when it comes to adding res­o­nance to “fill out” the sound of any en­sem­ble. The best work came in “A la strada,” a three-part “can­zonetta alla napo­le­tana” by Maren­zio. Sung by the three women in tight en­sem­ble and with em­bel­lished melodic lines, it con­veyed bright cheer­ful­ness.

Per­for­mances of the Santa Fe Cham­ber Mu­sic Fes­ti­val (www.santafecham­ber­mu­sic.com) and the Santa Fe Desert Cho­rale (www.de­sertchorale.org) con­tinue through Aug. 21 and Aug. 13 re­spec­tively.

Glazunov’s String Quin­tet in A ma­jor re­ceived a splen­did per­for­mance, im­pres­sive string-play­ing through and through.

Jen­nifer Frautschi

Mark Kosower

Jon Kimura Parker

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