Yesterday’s Amici Ensemble concert in Mazzoleni Hall was an all Richard Strauss program featuring an array of guests. First up was the Duett Concertino where regulats Joaquin Valdepeñas (clarinet), David Hetherington (cello) and Serouj Kradjian (piano) were joined by violinists Timothy Ying and Jennifer Murphy, violist Keith Hamm, Theodore Chan on bass and Michael Sweeney on bassoon. It’s a program piece in which the clarinet represents a princess and the bassoon, a bear, who eventually, of course, transforms into a handsome prince. There are lots of dance rhythms from the strings and some sly quotations from Der Rosenkavalier along the way. It’s fun and it was very well played. I almost wonder if it was too smooth. The bear certainly seemed very suave and his transformation was not terribly abrupt. Still, bear!
Next Sasha Djihanian joined the strings, clarinet and piano for arrangements (by Kradjian) of five songs; all quite well known. Kradjian told us he was trying to get the best of both Strauss’ original piano settings and his later orchestral arrangements into his version. I think he did a good job. Traum durch die Dämmerung, which started the set, was in the original piano version, Die Nacht got strings and clarinet and everyone came on board for Befreit. Maybe the best of the arrangements was Morgen where the cello picked up the melody line with the piano before violin came in over the top. It was rather lovely. Full ensemble of course for a red blooded arrangement of Zueignung. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve heard Sasha and the voice is definitely maturing. The “slice” is less apparent and there’s more bloom. She managed the essential task of making these deceptive songs sound fairly effortless while carrying over the ensemble and injecting plenty of emotion. This was fine Strauss singing.
After the interval it was the Quartet in C minor for piano, violin (Ying), viola and cello. It’s an early piece and in some ways more like, say, Mendelssohn, than the mature Strauss but there are definite hints of what’s to come. It was nicely done. It gets a bit breakneck in the scherzo and the finale but that was handled with aplomb.
A good way to spend a Sunday afternoon.