NOVA CHAMBER MUSIC SERIES, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Oct. 28

The Nova Chamber Music Series opened its 2012-2013 season Sunday afternoon with an interesting mix of string works by W.A. Mozart and two post-tonal works for solo wind instruments by Salt Lake City professor and composer Bruce Quaglia. The mixture offered a nice contrast of styles and time periods, and the quality of the performances provided a terrific start to another season of chamber music concerts by the always impressive NOVA organization.

Opening the concert was Quaglia’s work for solo clarinet, After Milton: Three Vignettes for B-flat Clarinet, in its United States premier. The music was skillfully performed by Utah Valley University professor Matthew Nelson, who infused the music with impressive energy and tremendous dexterity. Nelson’s command of his instrument’s wide dynamic range and his impeccable intonation contributed to a forceful performance of this work inspired by Milton Babbitt. Quaglia’s second piece, Fantasy Variations for Solo Flute, was handled just as skillfully by the Utah Symphony’s new principal flautist, Mercedes Smith. Smith’s reading of Quaglia’s often angular and robust score lent a pleasing lyrical quality to the music, while providing well-crafted phrases and a lovely tone.

Mozart’s string music for five performers made up the bulk of the afternoon’s concert, including the String Quintet in G Minor, K. 516; the Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 516; and the famous Serenade for Strings in G Major, K. 525, better known as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Mozart’s chamber music for strings relies heavily on the first violinist to provide melodic interest, and the Utah Symphony’s associate concertmaster, Kathryn Eberle, handled that particular role with skill and refinement. The ensemble playing was tight, balanced and nuanced with only very minor intonation issues occasionally appearing in the lower strings. These issues paled in comparison to the exquisite phrasing the ensemble produced, allowing Mozart’s witty, beautiful and elegant music to shine vividly in Libby Gardner Concert Hall.

Concertgoers to the NOVA Chamber Music Series have come to expect top notch performers and well planned programs; this concert was not an exception. The remaining concerts of the season also look excellent, with a good mixture of famous classics and exciting new music. These concerts have been a cultural bright spot within our community and are highly recommended.

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About Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is a performing musician, music educator, audio engineer and founder of the Salt Lake Electric Ensemble, a group dedicated to the performance and recording of electro-acoustic music. Their 2010 debut recording, "The Salt Lake Electric Ensemble Perform Terry Riley’s In C," received praise from critics throughout North America and Europe. He holds a bachelor of music degree from the University of Utah and a master’s degree in music technology from IUPUI in Indianapolis. He can be reached at Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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