Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts
By Henry C. Mayer

Quatetto Gelato Kicks Off a Brand New Concert Series

By Henry C. Mayer

Paraphrasing a saying seven-and-a-half centuries young, a great beginning promises a grand and delightful series. When Kentucky Center's Marketing Specialist Marilyn Settergren called to tell me about the new Thursday Concert Series, she had great things to say about each of the five concerts.

Well, the first one has taken place, and it was a winner in more ways than one.

What was it? A Canadian quartet with the colorful name of Quartetto Gelato. Not being fluent in the colorful language of sunny Italy, this observer asked one of the quartet what it meant and how they happened to call themselves that. Cynthia Steljes smiled and explained that ". . . the word 'quartet' is meant to say we are musical pros. The word 'gelato' means ice cream and we want people to enjoy our music at least as much as they enjoy ice cream!"

This observer noted that their Louisville audience not only greatly enjoyed their music, but also enjoyed talking with the performers - plus the free ice cream afterwards. The four are good friends, now in their fourth year together. Later on this season, they are to have fourteen concerts in Japan. They are not only talented performers; they also are gifted composers and arrangers.

Each has a keen sense of humor and is also well versed in musical history. This became crystal clear as each of them would step to the mike and tell us about the next piece.

One does not think of the oboe as an instrument for soloists, but Cynthia Steljes stepped forward and demonstrated that the contrary is true. She and her colleagues rescued one of Haydn's contemporaries from obscurity with a stunning performance of Jan Wandall's Oboe Quartet. They revealed that this forgotten genius wrote four times as many symphonies as "Papa" Haydn and was more popular in his time than his Viennese counterpart.

The other performers, Claudio Vena, Peter De Sotto and George Meanwell, also revealed extraordinary gifts and also gave new meaning to the phrase: one for all and all for one. They gave Louisville a delightful evening and one hopes they come back soon.

Can There Be Too Much Brahms?

There can be more than one answer to this question and more than one is being given about the recent Masterworks Concert that was devoted to honoring Johannes Brahms (1834-1897) upon the centennial of his death.

The widely acclaimed pianist, Dubravka Tomsic came here and, together with Max Bragado-Darman and the Louisville Orchestra, paid a well-deserved tribute to the German master.

One sometimes is inclined to think that Brahms is the least popular of the three 'Bs': Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. Of course, popularity is not the index of genius and talent. All three were exacting of themselves as composers but Brahms seems to have been especially so. Brahms was something of a perfectionist who made great demands on his work. That seems likely when one considers that in some forty years of composition, he wrote only four symphonies.

Of all the great masters, Brahms is the one this observer has had to hear several times before relishing his works. He found fresh beauty in the Academic Festival Overture. Not only that, it is lively, human and shows its composer as a man with intense feelings.

Tomsic gave us a dazzling display of her artistry on the keyboard. She played Brahms' 1st Concerto with singular energy and force and the audience responded with more than a little enthusiasm.

This observer has heard each one of these pieces previously but again, the Second Symphony was something of a revelation. One can suddenly realize how demanding it can be to compose such a work - and how demanding it can be to perform such a score.

When one peruses a life of Brahms, one realizes that music was his life and his life was to make music. He has left us some remarkable compositions and deserves an attentive listening and growing appreciation.