Patrick B. McGuigan
Oklahoma City – The Brightmusic Chamber Ensemble will present four concerts over six days, featuring the city’s best concert musicians as they bring to life works from many of the world’s best composers of classical music.
All Brightmusic concerts are performed in the worship space at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral (127 N.W. 7th Street, at Robinson) in downtown Oklahoma City.
Concert No. 1 (at 7:30 pm, Thursday, June 6) Sonatas includes three stellar compositions from great composers.
The evening will begin with a work by Francis Jean Marcel Poulenc – Sonata for Clarinet & Piano. Poulenc (January 7, 1899 – January 30, 1963), was from France. He composed a wide range of pieces for chamber music and other forms, including piano, choral, opera, ballet and orchestral works. Originally known for whimsical compositions, his music became more serious (and religious) as he matured.
In the second slot for Concert 1 is Johannes Brahms, Sonata No. 2 for Viola & Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 120, No. 2. Brahms (May 8, 1833 – April 3, 1897) is remembered as a “perfectionist” who destroyed many of his unfinished compositions. That fact remains a source of sadness for his admirers.
Brahms’ diverse and creative combination of tradition with styles considered innovative in his lifetime have assured his continued relevance. Along with Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach, he was in his era popularly deemed one of the “three Bs,” linking him to other great creators of music.
The Sonata for Violin & Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 18 from Richard Strauss is the third work of the first Festival concert. Strauss (June 11, 1864 – September 8, 1949) is considered a leader in the Romantic and early modern eras of music.
Sympathetic biographers note that he emerged in his own lifetime a classical music celebrity after his works became standards for orchestras around the world.
Concert No. 2 comes at 7:30 pm, Saturday, June 8 – Duos and Trios will feature the man whom many deem the greatest music composer in human history. However, the other two composers featured in this concert of the festival must not be neglected.
First on the program will be the Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano, by Bohuslav Martinů (Decenber 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959), a Czech composer of “modern classical” music. His six symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballets and many other compositions assure his place in contemporary performances, including here in Oklahoma City.
Third on the Saturday program will be Carl Frühling’s Trio in A Minor for Clarinet, Cello & Piano, Op. 40.
The Austrian Fruhling (November 28, 1868 -November 25, 1937) wrote in the Romantic tradition. A fine pianist, his compositions were not fully appreciated in his own lifetime, and he died impoverished in Vienna. However, Steven Isserlis (a modern cellist) has unearthed some of Fruhling’s unpublished music, bringing about a fresh appreciation for his work.
The other composer featured in the second Brightmusic Festival concert is the incomparable Ludwig van Beethoven (Sonata for Cello & Piano No. 3 in A Major, Op. 69). He remains the subject of endless praise among those who know only a little about the classical genre, and will retain a special place in the hearts of those with profound knowledge of the challenges of this kind of music. He lived a long life (December 1770-March 26, 1827). He was in virtual despiare for decades as his difficulty hearing transitioned to full deafness.
Beethoven’s final major work (the Ninth Symphony) was arguably the pinnacle of his creative genius. When it premiered, he did not realize the stunned and rapturous response of the audience until a friend turned him around to face the sustained ovation of adoring fans.
The Brightmusic Ensemble, comprised of many of the finest musicians in middle states of America, will continue on Sunday, June 9, at 4 p.m. with the Mae Ruth Swanson Memorial Concert. Deemed Concert No. 3 and featuring Trios with Strings, the event will commence with Beethoven’s String Trio in C Minor, Op. 9, No. 3.
Following will be Ingolf Dahl, Concerto a Tre for Clarinet, Violin & Cello. Dahl (June 9, 1912 – August 6, 1970) is a perplexing figure. Born in Germany, he long hid his Jewish roots, even after gaining some success in America as a composer, pianist, educator and conductor.
Following Dahl’e “Tre” is Franz Joseph Haydn’s London Trio No. 1 in C Major, Hob. IV:1 for Flute, Violin & Cello. The magnificent Austrian composer of classics lived Mary 31, 1732 – May 31 1809). Music scholars have called him both “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet.”
Closing the Sunday, June 9 concert will be Ernö Dohnányi, Serenade for String Trio in C Major, Op. 10. Born July 27, 1877, Dohnányi was a Hungarian conductor and pianist who garnered a fine reputation for his compositions, including thw work Brightmusic’s musicians will share.
All good things eventualy come to an end, and thus the Brightmusic Summer Festival will conclude on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30 p.m. with Concert No. 4 – Quartets.
The finale commences with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Quartet in F Major for Oboe, Violin, Viola & Cello, K.370.
Amadeus means “beloved of God,” and that has always seemed apt to this writer. Despite his tragically short life (from January 27, 1756 to December 5, 1791) Mozart had the spark of genius from childhood on.
As reflected for The City Sentinel in a review earlier in this 2018-19 season, “What provokes wonder, time and again, is the reality that Mozart delivered unparalleled excellence over and over in varied works.” It is with gratitude and eagerness the lover of Music awaits Brightmusic’s newest presentation of Mozart.
Second on the Tuesday program will be Astor Piazzolla, Libertango and Oblivion for Clarinet, Violin, Cello & Piano. Piazzolla (March 11, 1921 – July 4, 1992) is designated by some as the greatest composer of tango music in modern times. Indeed, the Argentinian composer’s body of work is designated “nuevo tango” for its unique formulas, incorporating American jazz and other styles.
A modern composer, John Mackey (born October 1, 1973) will be featured when the musicians perform Breakdown Tango for Clarinet, Violin, Cello & Piano.
The Brightmusic Summer Festival will conclude with Antonín Dvořák, Piano Quartet No. 2 for Piano & Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 87. Dvořák was among the living from September 8, 1841 – May 1, 1904. He was a Czech composer whose earliest works were unveiled in Prague. As his work garnered acclaim and appreciation of his versatility grew, Dvořák traveled the world, often conducting presentations of his own work. He lived for some time in the United States before returning to his native Bohemian soil late in life.
Participating musicians for the 2019 Summer Festival include Gregory Lee and Katrin Stamatis (violin), Mark Neumann (viola), Zachary Reaves (cello), Parthena Owens (flute), Lisa Harvey-Reed (oboe), Chad Burrow (clarinet), and three pianists: Amy I-Lin Cheng, Sallie Pollack and Ruirui Ouyang.
Tickets for each concert are $20 at the door. The Festival package price of $80 admits you to all performances during the Summer Chamber Music Festival – ate a savings of $30 over the single-ticket price of $80 for the four concerts.
Children, students and active-duty military personnel are admitted free with ID. Free parking is available south of the cathedral. For ticket details information, including online purchases, visit brightmusic.org/passes. This link will also guide you toward giving opportunities to support the Summer Festival.
For more information, visit brightmusic.org. To make a contribution by check supporting the world’s best music, send to: Brightmusic Society of Oklahoma, P. O. Box 20254, Oklahoma City, OK 73156 .
Note: Patrick B. McGuigan, publisher and editor of The City Sentinel newspaper, joined the Brightmusic Board of Directors last month.