Chamber music spreads warmth from Greaves to Louisville

Greaves Hall came alive with the sounds of chamber music and a warm feeling among guests because they were supporting a worthy cause. Northern Kentucky University adjunct professor Joanne Wojtowicz and her friends from the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performed “Chamber Music Among Friends” to benefit the Louisville Orchestra, which is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Donations were taken from the audience to support the cause. The Louisville Orchestra is close to Wojtowicz and other musicians’ hearts because it’s where many of them got their start as a professional orchestral musician.

Friday’s concert had an intimate, casual feel with about 50 guests, a mix of students, faculty and members of the community. The wide range of music choices gave the short show – only about one hour – variety that even a non-music student could enjoy. With three pieces, the music choice was careful to include both modern and classic chamber music, which is music written for a small group of musicians, usually around four.

The first piece entitled “Phantasy Quartet” by Benjamin Britten featured oboe, violin, viola and cello. According to the program, this piece “harked back to the fantasies for viols that were a prominent part of English music in the 1600s.”

The entire piece was quick, even chaotic at times. The moments of tension and drama were cut by moments of soft, deep notes from the cello. The oboe also added moments of solitude with its snake charmeresque parts apart from the strings.

“Phantasy” had an interesting sound overall. The strings often reverted back to a plucking method that began and ended the entire piece. Each instrument added something different and complimented the others. The musicians played flawlessly at the impressive speeds called for by the piece.

The second piece of the night was “Invisible Topography,” written by Ellen Harrison, faculty member at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, who was also present in the audience. “Invisible” is a brand new piece; Friday’s performance was only the second time it has ever been played.

This piece for viola, violin, cello and bass was very contemporary and very high energy. According to Harrison, this piece “explores the various textures, moods and colors that strings can produce,” and this came out as the performance progressed.

Throughout the entire piece, each instrument was showcased, either with a solo or from the accompanying instruments enhancing their sound. All together, the piece had a very enjoyable, albeit different, sound. After its final note, the musicians got the approval of Harrison when she stood to applaud the quartet.

The final piece of the night, “Concertino for Flute, Viola and Double Bass” by Erwin Schulhoff, provided the classical chamber music portion to the show.

The first movement was soft, subtle and romantic with moments of chaos. The flute was incredibly impressive in the first movement and throughout. The speeds and range of notes were spectacular and played almost flawlessly.

The second movement was much more dramatic. Instead of flute, piccolo was added to the trio, which added a lot of tension and conflict among the viola and double bass with its high-pitched notes.

The finale featured the piccolo again and was more frantic and fast paced than the second movement.

The way the musicians played the frantic notes also added to the performance. Their movements matched the music, showing their passion for what they are playing. In fact, the musicians throughout the show showed their passion for the music and not only in their final pieces.

Their passion flowed throughout Greaves, giving the feeling of joy and culture to each audience member.

Story by Claire Higgins