REVIEW: A concert by musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra was a bittersweet moment for the audience and departing orchestra members.
It was a sad night at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Minneapolis, where the musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra gathered Friday to bid farewell to members who are taking positions elsewhere, a consequence of the orchestra’s continuing eight-month lockout.
“Catch Them While You Can: An Evening of Chamber Music” was an evening of stellar music making.
The climax was Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A Major, featuring concertmaster Erin Keefe and principal cellist Anthony Ross, as well as three musicians who have signed on with orchestras elsewhere: principal clarinetist Burt Hara, principal second violinist Gina DiBello and principal violist Tom Turner.
Hara played with a delicate tone, imbuing Mozart’s charming melodies with a deep emotional resonance. He was like the Pied Piper, his performance absolutely mesmerizing.
The melancholy Larghetto, some of the most sublime music ever composed, perfectly suited the mood of the occasion.
The musicians clearly enjoyed playing together and the string quartet played with a sharp, crisp sound, capturing the genteel Classical style.
DiBello chose the String Quartet No 3 “Tapas” of Marc Mellits and was joined by associate principal second violin Jonathan Magness, viola Sam Bergman and cello Katja Linfield.
The eight “little dishes” made a sumptuous meal. This music was tonal, but aggressively modern. Jazz-tinged pizzicato alternated with Romantic lyricism and DiBello played with a real flair.
The concert opened with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. Played with an ensemble of seven strings, it was essentially a concerto for two violas, led by Turner and co-principal viola Richard Marshall.
Their full, rich sound, trading melodies back and forth in the first movement, sparkled. The Adagio turned plaintive and they sang elegiacally. In the lively finale, their performance danced effervescently.
The concert was held at St. John’s because, as a parishioner said, it was a chance for the church to repay church members Ross and Hara. Ross and “his gang” of musician friends have helped the congregation raise more than $100,000 over the past decade for its social justice outreach programs.
These musicians, longtime fixtures of our community, will not be easily replaced. And the ensemble will be weaker for their absence.
William Randall Beard writes about music and theater.