Viennese music both opened and closed a marvelous concert by the St. Lawrence String Quartet in Sunday, April 18, 2010 at Stanford University.
Two guest artists were also part of the program: Anthony Manzo, Bass, and Pedja Muzijevic, Piano. More on these artists in a moment…
The program opened with music by Viennese composer Joseph Lanner (1801-1843). He lived and worked closely with Johann Strauss, and the performers showed us why Lanner became so famous in his time as a performer in dance orchestras, entertaining folks who enjoyed waltzes and other dances, in days when Facebook and other electronic means of connection were not available…
Anthony Manzo, Bass, took the place of the Cello in the Lanner work “Die Werber”, Op. 103. The 4 players gave us a fine, animated, charming performance of this work. For me, it was easy to be transported to an older time, a different time, a time when music filled a greater part of people’s day. Mr. Manzo brought a lot to this group: Above all, a very tasteful, important way of providing gorgeous Bass sound to this composition. What effortless playing! And his 1890 Bass underscored the wonderful rhythm of the piece. Yes… this is lighter music; but life is “heavy” enough, so I appreciated this novel inclusion of Lanner, which gave us a chance to hear Mr. Manzo, even though he’d return to perform the final work of this concert to show us more of his great capability to make music!
The St. Lawrence performed the Benjamin Britten String quartet #2, Op. 36, after the Lanner. Britten was born in 1913 and died in 1976. Clearly this is music of an entirely different era. The program Notes told us that the composer had taken performance trips to concentration camps with Yehudi Menuhin during the time when this work was composed. As such, we clearly heard much darker sound, as contrasted with the opening Lanner. For me, this was an interesting experience and an invitation to study this music further. As with the music of Mahler, some music requires repeated hearing and further study to achieve true appreciation.
The concluding piece was my great favorite, the Schubert “Trout” Quintet for piano and strings, in which Scott St. John played the violin part, Manzo returned with his Bass, and Pedja Muzijevic was the pianist. The quintet’s title stems from the work’s 4th movement, in which Schubert used one of his songs, “Die Forelle”, as the central theme and variations. Schubert passes the song from instrument to instrument and allows each of the performers (including the Bass) to express their respective solo contributions. What a wonderful experience this was! St. John provided great style and leadership. Muzijevic was outstanding in the piano part. He was technically flawless, and gave the piano part the beautiful expression and colors that the part required. And Robertson and Costanza did their respective solos at the appropriate points. The audience expressed their great admiration and appreciation at the end. This was creative programming, and a terrific performance!
Click below for a 2-minute except of Dvorak, as played by the St. Lawrence Quartet.