NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, Feb. 3

Who would have thought half a dozen 2x4s could be turned into musical instruments. That’s what Michael Gordon did with his Timber, which was on the NOVA Chamber Music Series concert Tuesday

Cut into different lengths the planks create some interesting sounds depending on where exactly they’re struck. And to create some variety there are changing rhythms and dynamics. But even so it’s still a rather monotonous piece and becomes tedious to listen to after a short while.

The six percussionists (Keith Carrick, Eric Hopkins and Michael Pape from the Utah Symphony; Jason Nicholson from Utah State University; Gavin Ryan from Utah Valley University; and Michael Sammons from the University of Utah) gave a tour de force performance. The 45 minute piece is an endurance test for the players, since they hammer their piece of wood almost constantly without any break. It’s also an endurance test for the audience; to their credit, there were only a few defections during the performance.

The first half featured the Fry Street Quartet, in their annual appearance at NOVA, playing Beethoven’s Quartet in E flat major, op. 127, the first of the composer’s so called late quartets.

Beethoven’s quartets should be in the FSQ’s blood. A few years ago they did all of the quartets at Utah State University, where they are in residency — the first time the complete cycle had been performed in Utah. At Tuesday’s concert they showed once again they have complete command of the music. Their playing was filled with boldness and passion, but tempered with exquisite lyricism.

The centerpiece of the op. 127 is its glorious slow movement — a wonderfully crafted set of variations. The foursome infused their playing with eloquent expressiveness and lyricism that brought out the myriad nuances of the movement. Their reading was poetic and memorable.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at ed.reichel@gmail.com. Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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