1 of 2 Composer Lisa Bielawa’s “Fictional Migrations” had its world premiere at the July 10 concert in Seattle Chamber Music Society’s summer fest. (Matthew Gush)
If you want a textbook example of what the Seattle Chamber Music Society does best, Monday night’s Summer Festival program is exactly that. You start with a perfect little masterpiece, Mozart’s Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major (K.423), with one of today’s supremely gifted violinists – Augustin Hadelich – joining the excellent violist Michael Klotz.
You conclude the program with an even more famous masterpiece, Schubert’s beloved “Trout” Quintet, with a feisty and expert crew of string players underscored by pianist George Li, an international prizewinner.
And, safely sandwiched in the middle, you present the world premiere of a trio underwritten by the SCMS Commissioning Club, composed by one of today’s top young composers, Lisa Bielawa. Written for the unusual combination of flute/piccolo, French horn, and piano, the new trio is called “Fictional Migrations.” In the program notes, Bielawa cites the late French composer Olivier Messiaen (to whom this trio is dedicated) as an inspiration; Messiaen was an ornithologist who incorporated elements of birdsong into his own music. (His famous “Quartet for the End of Time” will be heard in the July 24 festival concert.)
The Bielawa work is sophisticated, propulsive, complex, and often beautiful — replete with birdlike trills and flutterings. It requires enormous dexterity of all three players, particularly of flutist/piccoloist Lorna McGhee, though the tumultuous and heavily arpeggiated piano part (Jeewon Park, who undertook this piece on short notice) and the complex music for horn (Jeffrey Fair) provided plenty of challenges. (McGhee’s piccolo, frequently deployed at top volume and near the summit of the instrument’s compass, sounded piercing enough to summon extraterrestrials.)
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There were few surprises in the Mozart duo that opened the program, except for the fun of watching Hadelich and Klotz trading off exquisite phrases in a musical pas de deux that made you wish for several more movements. The spirited give-and-take, the advancing and receding of the violin and the viola, flowed just as Mozart once decreed: “like oil.”
The “Trout” Quintet – Schubert at his sunniest – was fast-moving and sparkling, with lots of byplay from the musicians (particularly violist Richard O’Neill and violinist Andrew Wan), underlain by the mellow, resonant bass of Joseph Kaufman. Ronald Thomas was the ensemble’s cellist; Li brought a wealth of sonorities to the piano part, from warm lyricism to glittery cascades of sound. This was a “Trout” well worth catching.