Host Matt Peiken interviews  Erin Keefe and Tony Ross after their performance at the Bryant Lake Bowl. Photo by Jon Robert Gustafson

Tony Ross nearly shredded his bow Tuesday night at the Bryant Lake Bowl. He was so into the duet for violin and cello that he was playing with Erin Keefe that he sent the horsehair flying. It was a rare treat to see the Minnesota Orchestra’s concertmaster and principal cellist in such a casually intimate setting (with wine, beer or a cocktail if you so chose), not to mention the $12 ticket price.

The event was the first of what host Matt Peiken hopes will be many installments of “Etude A Trois,” a monthly showcase of three examples of local classical talent, with audience Q & A after each segment. The performances are a part of a bold new project that Peiken, a local arts journalist, has dubbed MNuet. An online magazine about all things classical in the Twin Cities, is designed to eventually become self-sustaining through paid memberships.

The Longfellow Brass Quintet, an offshoot of the Dakota Valley Symphony Orchestra, opened the show with a fanfare, a tango, and three more wildly different pieces, reminding us of just how versatile a group of horns can be. Asked how old his obviously worn tuba was, Roger Gomoll quipped “As an amateur musician, you have to choose between a $20,000 instrument and the affection of your spouse.”

Minnesota Opera teaching artist Bergen Baker reminded us of Mary on “Downton Abbey,” with her fetching blend of grace, warmth and humor. The Wayzata-born Baker sang a comic number from Bernstein’s one-act opera “Trouble in Tahiti,” followed by a French aria and Carmen’s seduction song. English can actually be the hardest language for an American to sing in, she said, “because of our relaxed approach to speaking it, especially as Midwesterners.”

Keefe and Ross were actually representing not the orchestra but Accordo, the chamber group they both play in. After their duet (by Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály) Ross spoke eloquently about the joys of performing both in a chamber setting and a full orchestra, but gave the edge to an orchestra’s “accumulation of humanity all working together on stage.” Something for classical fans to bear in mind as both the Minnesota and St. Paul orchestras remain locked in grim contract battles. 

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