Open Classical is always surprising. At Thanksgiving, they presented a comic opera that featured a clarinetist in a turkey costume. Friday evening at Times Ten Cellars in Lakewood, they created a very different emotional resonance with a program that sizzled with intensity.
The foursome began with Gustav Mahler’s one-movement Piano Quartet in A Minor. Written when Mahler was just a teenager, the quartet both presages Mahler’s mature style and positively quivers with teen angst. It is the only surviving piece of chamber music Mahler wrote that does not include voice. (There were others: one early performance of the quartet also included a performance of a violin sonata by Mahler, which, alas, has been lost.)
The Open Classical group, aided by the close quarters of the Times Ten Cellars party room, projected passion and achieved technical mastery. Violinist Chloe Trevor and cellist Joseph Kuipers, both members of the Dallas Chamber Symphony, are fine additions to the local scene. Mark Landson showed his proficiency on viola as well as violin in this program—while he is clearly a violinist first, he was able to switch from viola to violin and back to viola again over the course of the evening without sacrificing intonation, which is no small feat. Thiago Nascimento, although playing on an electronic keyboard, achieved remarkable tonal color and subtlety, especially given the limitations of his instrument.
The program ended with another piece of juvenilia, sort of, this time the last movement a Finale marked Allegro molto, of William Walton’s Piano Quartet in D Minor. Like Mahler, Walton began composing his quartet when he was 16. However, the twist is that he revised this piece when he was in his 70s. The four performers availed themselves well—only a tricky contrapuntal section created some shaky ensemble. Otherwise, these players were solid in a piece that, as with much of Walton, offers the potential for many pitfalls. Walton is not a melodist, so finding lines in his work can be a challenge—the Open Classical players managed this nicely. Overall, for musicians who do not work together frequently, they created a true ensemble performance.
The middle three pieces on the program were all contemporary works by local composers. It’s exciting to see local composers having their music performed alongside Mahler and Walton, and all three pieces were enthusiastically received by the full house at Times Ten Cellars. The three pieces were Margaret Barrett’s “Taken-Blessed-Broken-Given” for violin and piano, performed by Landson and Nascimento, Adam Eason’s “Tango Notturno” for cello and piano, performed by Kuipers and Nascimento, and Mark Landson’s “Troubled Souls” for violin and piano, performed by Trevor and Nascimento. Landson’s piece is the most sophisticated of the lot; Barrett’s piece, while interesting in its use of harmonies, has some violin writing that was not completely natural to the instrument. Eason’s tango is an engaging, listenable short work, characteristic of the tango genre.
Times Ten Cellars in Dallas worked well as a venue for this group—a catered meal was offered for a reasonable price, and guests could eat and enjoy a glass of wine while they listened. The major downside was a background chorus of loudly clinking dishes during Barrett’s piece.
Open Classical consistently produces entertaining, innovative, low-cost classical programs, and this was no exception.
» The concert is repeated Saturday, Feb. 7 at the Live Oak Music Lounge in Fort Worth.