Hopefully, not too far in the future, e when women composers will be regarded in the same light as their male colleagues, and not just as in “a league of their own,” to reference the popular 1992 film of that title. Until then, any opportunity a classical music lover gets to hear some great music written by women, however it is presented, should be indulged in.
One such program of special merit takes place Sunday at Trinity Church in Solebury, near New Hope. The Bucks County-based Concordia Chamber Players, in their second concert of the season, will feature a program of compositions entirely by women composers spanning three centuries. The program features works by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Amy Beach, and Louise Farrenc.
Opening the program is the Piano Quintet by Zwilich, a Florida native who became the first female composer to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music, and the first woman to be awarded a doctorate in composition from Juilliard, in 1975. Zwilich composed her quintet in 2011 for the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, violist Michael Tree, and bassist Harold Robinson.
The work shares its instrumentation and the theme of its second movement with Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet, with which it is often paired. But that’s where Schubert ends and Zwillich begins, for although she uses the theme from Schubert’s 1817 song “Die Forelle” (The Trout), she does it in a syncopated, bluesy style.
The mood of the movement is established at the outset, with the low strings setting up an even-gaited stride bass, the piano interjecting a little swing figure, and the viola tries out an improvisatory-sounding jazz phrase. Zwillich’s delightful syncopation carries through into the work’s finale.
Amy Beach wrote her expansive Piano Trio in A Minor, Op. 150 in 1938. There’s an overall romantic feeling to this late work, with several impressionistic turns of melody and harmony that blur the expected tonal relationships. In it, Beach makes ample use of one of her favorite textures, a solo string line with wispy obbligato from the piano right hand.
Probably not as well-known as Beach or Zwillich is Louise Farrenc, born in Paris in 1804. A virtuoso pianist as well as a composer, she enjoyed a considerable reputation in her day. Farrenc’s chamber music is on a par with most of her well-known male contemporaries, although unfortunately, these works never achieved the renown they deserved and fell into oblivion shortly after her death.
Farrenc’s Piano Quintet No. 1, Opus 30 was composed between 1839 and 1842. The work’s style is clearly that of the Romantic era, with all the parts well-integrated. It opens with a beautiful, dreamy Schumannesque theme entrusted to the cello, high in its tenor register. Throughout the piece, one is particularly struck by how perfectly the piano is integrated into the ensemble.
Since its founding in 1997, the Bucks County Chamber Players have been bringing the live chamber music to the area, with programs ranging from classic standards to lesser-known works. Participating musicians range from young protégés to veteran virtuosos. Performers for this program include John Novacek, piano; Miho Saegusa, violin; Anthony Manzo, bass; Ayana Kozasa, viola; and Michelle Djokic, the organization’s founder, on cello.
Concordia Chamber Players, 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb.17, Trinity Church, 6587 Upper York Rd., Solebury (near New Hope). Tickets: $25. 215-816-0227, www.concordiaplayers.org
POSTED: February 10, 2019
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