NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, March 17
Sunday’s NOVA concert offered a wide ranging program including the premiere of a new work by University of Utah composer Miguel Chuaqui.
Chuaqui’s two-movement Confabulario for wind quintet is a well written piece that explores the distinctive sounds of the five instruments, at times pitting them against each other and at times bringing them together in different combinations. The piece is also rhythmically vibrant with frequent cross rhythms, particularly in the second movement.
Playing the piece were Utah Symphony colleagues Lisa Byrnes, flute; Robert Stephenson, oboe; Lee Livengood, clarinet; Lori Wike, bassoon; and Stephen Proser, horn. They gave a lively and energetic reading that was nuanced and nicely balanced.
Utah soprano Celena Shafer was also featured at the concert in music by Stravinsky and Fauré, accompanied by NOVA artistic director and Utah Symphony pianist Jason Hardink.
She opened her set with the nightingale’s three arias from Stravinsky’s early opera The Nightingale. Singing with power that was tempered with lyricism and eloquent expressiveness, Shafer made short work of these demanding pieces. They were gorgeously crafted and executed.
After the Stravinsky Shafer sang five of Fauré’s many art songs, infusing each with carefully molded expressions and poetic lyricism. Hardink accompanied her with sensitivity and delicate phrasings.
The concert opened with a short virtuosic piece by Tchaikovsky, Pezzo capriccioso, played by cellist Matthew Zalkind, accompanied by Hardink. Zalkind is the son of two Utah Symphony musicians: associate principal viola Roberta Zalkind and principal trombone Larry Zalkind. Matthew Zalkind’s rich, mellow tone brought depth to the music. His nuanced playing made the piece sing.
Closing out the concert was Tchaikovsky’s string sextet Souvenir de Florence, in which Zalkind was joined by Utah Symphony players Ralph Matson and Barbara Scowcroft, violin; Brant Bayless and Roberta Zalkind, viola; and Kevin Shumway, cello.
Tchaikovsky’s greatest chamber work, the Souvenir is a wonderful excursion into his world of melody, and the ensemble gave a captivating account that let the music speak for itself. Their playing was fresh and vibrant. They blended well together but also retained their individuality. Solo passages by Matson, Bayless and Matthew Zalkind were especially noteworthy.