Bravo, Brava, Bravi to The Concordia Chamber Players! Founder and cellist Michelle Djokic has always assembled a stellar array of first-class musicians from all over the country, but on Sunday February 17th, they outdid themselves.
Programming unfamiliar pieces all written by virtually unknown women composers from different periods of time, I was frankly not expecting to like the music at all, but au contraire, was blown away not only by the superb quality of the musicians’ performance, but by the beautifully unusual music. The two older composers dealt with society’s disapproval of women learning to perform and to compose music, but bravely followed their dreams despite opposition and obstacles in their way.
Amy Beach composed and published under her husband’s name until he died, and after one of her successful performances was told “You’re one of the boys now, Amy!” as if that were the highest form of recognition.
Contemporary Ellen Taafe Zwilich’s Quintet uses exactly the same instrumentation as Schubert’s famous “Trout” Quintet 191 years earlier, as does Louise Farrenc’s grand finale, but Zwilich, unlike Farrenc and Beach, has already been deservedly well-recognized and acclaimed in the world of music.
Louise Farrenc, earliest of the three composers, was on a par with both Fanny Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, but unlike them, did not rely on the fame of a male composer to achieve recognition. She started out performing piano to accompany her flutist husband Aristide, and then went on to become the only 19th century woman piano professor at the Paris Conservatory. As most of her compositions involved many instruments, they were too expensive to perform, so she dropped unceremoniously into oblivion after her death. I do hope that after two centuries, more of her work will be “discovered” and performed and feel very fortunate to have had the privilege of hearing her brilliantly beautiful Piano Quintet performed on Sunday.
John Novacek, who has performed often with Concordia, has hands that dance across the keyboard, every finger precisely choreographed, rehearsed, allowing the music to flow effortlessly, a performance always fresh and a joy to behold and hear. Miho Saeguso, violinist, and violist Ayane Kozasa were both born in Japan, and having studied music in the United States, play in distinctively different styles but blend seamlessly together with cellist Michelle Djokic’s deeply lyrical and dynamic lower voice and Anthony Manzo’s powerful yet light-hearted double Bass tones supporting the entire ensemble.
And as if the music weren’t enough, the Concordia Board prepared and served a sumptuous reception which was enjoyed by all at intermission! Don’t miss the next Concordia concert on April 28th!
by Mira Nakashima