Concert Review: “American String Quartet with Octavio Vazquez” at the Candlelight Concert Society

Clockwise: Wolfram Koessel (cello), Peter Winograd (violin), Laurie Carney (violin) and Daniel Avshalomov (viola). Photo by Peter Schaaf.

On May 22, the Candlelight Concert Society (CCS) presented “American String Quartet with Octavio Vazquez” and the audience was delighted. Even though it was getting stormy outside, the American String Quartet opened with music that brought sounds of spring. The first track was “Lyric for Strings” by George Walker with suave notes reflected in the lightness of the instruments.

The second selection was Maurice Ravel’s “String Quartet in F Major”, a four-movement piece written when Ravel was a student. The first and third movements show the influence of his teacher, Gabriel Fauré. On the other hand, the second movement was less mellow, with a lot of pizzicato for the strings. The last movement, “Vif et agité”, already showed the impressionist influences of Ravel. You could hear the streets of Paris in the notes.

…a very moving and memorable work

After intermission, the most anticipated part of the show was Octavio Vazquez’s “Piano Quintet,” written in 2021 and commissioned by the Aspen Music Festival. (Read Susan Ball’s interview with Octavio Vazquez here.) “The play relates to events at the end of the 15th century in Galicia and the Iberian Peninsula in general.” It was the time of the Inquisition when Jews, and later Muslims, who had lived for years in harmony with Christians, were suddenly expelled, imprisoned and murdered. The play had many discordant sections that reflected the plight of these sudden “outcasts”. The notes formed images of grief and loss and there was also a hint of klezmer music associated with European Judaism. The first sad sounds were followed by notes that reflected conflict and helplessness. Finally, the sounds of resignation to tyranny resonate on the piano. Throughout the Quintet you may have “heard” sounds of children, and in several sections there seemed to be almost a dialogue between the strings and the piano. The “Piano Quintet” was a very moving and memorable work that capped off another wonderful CCS presentation.

Duration: 1h45 with an intermission.

“American String Quartet with Octavio Vazquez”, presented by Candlelight Concert Society, was performed on May 22, 2022 at the Horowitz Center Smith Theater at Howard Community College, 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD 21044.

If you missed this wonderful concert, there is one more this season. Pianist Dénes Várjon, originally scheduled for March, will perform on Wednesday, June 1, 2022 at the Smith Theater at 7:30 p.m.

The next season of CCS begins on Sunday, September 11, 2022 with The Knights Chamber Orchestra. There will be a new piece commissioned to help celebrate the Candlelight Concert Society’s 50th season as well as a “free for all concert” featuring talented young musicians from across Howard County. For more information and tickets for the 2022-23 season, please click on here.

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