by Nick Stubblefield
On cold, windy Brooklyn nights in January, warming up can be daunting. New Yorkers, like moths to a light, find comfort in small spaces — closer quarters means more body heat. Take the cozy McKinney Chapel of the First Unitarian Church, a warm, welcoming, and acoustically lively urban nook with stained glass panels overhead and hardwood floors underfoot. This past weekend, an enthusiastic, intimate community of music lovers (young and old) stepped inside, ready to shake off the chill, relax and savor masterworks from three beloved composers, Mozart, Beethoven, and Fauré.
The Brooklyn Chamber Music Society, a non-profit organization headquartered in Brooklyn Heights, presented a string quartet, consisting of Scott St. John on violin and viola, Carmit Zori on Violin, Daniel Phillips, viola, and Julia Lichten, cello. Shai Wosner provided accompaniment at the piano. The program opened with Mozart’s own quintet arrangement of his Piano Concerto No. 12 in A Major. The strings played with precision, enthusiasm, and Mozart-appropriate frolic. While piano concertos are a cornerstone of the major orchestras, hearing one in this up-close chamber setting was a different, equally rewarding experience. The ensemble’s expressive, dynamic playing was perfectly suited to the room and audience; tender moments were soft, and loud moments had more impact. Meanwhile the resonance of the strings, especially from the larger-framed cello, was a sonic feast for the ears. Seeing the intense focus reflected in the musicians’ facial expressions, watching the intricate fingering and bowing, one could appreciate the artistry in what is perceived as the simple joy of making music.
Beethoven’s String Quartet in C minor, Op 18. No 4 closed out the first half of the program. A contrast to the Mozart, the Beethoven was filled with fiery runs and staccato passages that propelled the piece ferociously like a modern-day hard rock song.
The ensemble finished the program with Gabriel Fauré’s Quartet for piano and strings in G minor, op. 45. Steeped in the French-Romantic tradition, the work calls for a deep expression and dynamic range. Wosner injected a furious momentum into the wave-like arpeggios at the start, and played with a thoughtful and sensitive touch during the adagio.
A concert from The Brooklyn Chamber Music Society may offer the perfect antidote to the isolation one can feel this time of year. Their concert series continues February 17 at the First Unitarian Church.
The Brooklyn Chamber Music Society schedule and tickets are available here.