Chamber music, Review

Music for Six at Bethany: Colorado Chamber Players

A review by Marc Shulgold

Rather than celebrate Mother’s Day with a mom-flavored program at their Sunday evening concert in Bethany Lutheran Church, a six-member contingent from the Colorado Chamber Players chose to honor the recent birthdays of Brahms and Tchaikovsky, who both arrived on a May 7 (the former in 1833, the latter seven years later).

Colorado Chamber Players

Colorado Chamber Players

That coincidence was duly noted by CCP artistic director Barbara Hamilton as she introduced the opening Brahms Sextet before a small gathering (maybe that Mother’s Day thing kept more audience members at home with Mom).

In her introduction, the violist alluded to Brahms’ infatuation with Agathe von Siebold- who, as the group demonstrated, was immortalized with a brief tune in the composer’s Second Sextet. This shimmering, tuneful work was then given a fine reading by four CCP regulars: Margaret Soper Gutierrez and Paul Primus, violins, Hamilton and cellist Jeffrey Watson – plus guest artists Thomas Heinrich, cello, and Matthew Dane, viola.

Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Violin

Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Violin

One may have wished for a touch more energy in the Brahms’ opening movement, which lost some of its urgent restlessness but none of its melodic beauty. The following Scherzo received a more spirited reading, with some wonderful playing from Gutierrez in the first violin chair. Particularly effective was the third movement, richly scored in its lush orchestral texture, amply showcasing the ensemble’s cohesive blend and its impeccable balance. This work and the Tchaikovsky sextet that followed intermission place severe demands on each player, a challenge met with flying colors by these experienced, solidly professional musicians.

Paul Primus, Violin

Paul Primus, Violin

As Primus noted, this work is orchestral in its construction, calling on the each player to project a big, full-blooded sound.  Here again, the ensemble delivered the goods. The two hair-raising codas in the opening and closing movements proved as exciting as anything delivered at chamber-music concerts this season, inspiring a standing ovation from the few lucky souls gathered to hear this stimulating program of two undeservedly neglected works.

This program once again reminded us of the value of this adventurous floating organization, which, under Hamilton’s leadership, has served up rare and unusual repertory of all shapes and sizes for 21 years – a distinction clearly evident in the announcement of offerings for next season, titled “A Year of Shostakovich.” Can’t wait!

Excerpts from this program will be repeated at a free event at noon Monday in the Atrium of Children’s Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus, 13123 E. 16th Ave., Aurora.

CCP quartet (Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Paul Primus, Barbara Hamilton, Jeff Watson) and guests Matthew Dane and Thomas Heinrich

CCP quartet (Margaret Soper Gutierrez, Paul Primus, Barbara Hamilton, Jeff Watson) and guests Matthew Dane and Thomas Heinrich

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