No accounting for taste. More accurately, those who love classical music enjoy such a variety of musical tastes, that only in the hands of an elite concert group will all be satisfied.
So it was last Saturday at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, when the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society kicked off its pre-summer spring concert with a specially curated piano quartet.
The timing was propitious: This past May was National Chamber Music Month in America. And the level of virtuosity was astonishing, with Sarah Leventhal on violin, Lila Brown on viola, Jonathan Miller on cello and artistic director Delores Stevens on piano.
A nationally celebrated pianist, Ms. Stevens lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif., and Chilmark.
On Saturday the Mozart piano quartet in E-flat major was brilliant, but judging from the conversation during intermission, the hit of the event was Turnia’s quartet in A-minor, Op. 67.
“Sumptuous!” exclaimed one concert-goer. “I’ve never heard of Turina before, but now I’m going to hunt for a CD of his music. When I listen to music like that, I know I was Spanish in another life. Probably a dancer.”
The Spanish-born composer studied in Paris where he basked in the company of such luminaries as Ravel and Debussy. But after pursuing his art in France and Italy, he was encouraged to return to Spain to explore his roots in traditional music, especially roots in Andalusia.
And the sound was lush, dramatic, intense and romantic.
Richard Strauss’s piano quartet, Op. 13 in C-minor was also lush, romantic and passionate, and it called upon the performers to summon an extra, unworldly degree of polish and brio, to which they applied themselves with stunning success.
The acoustics and aesthetics of the beautiful old church, with its soaring windows braced by white Doric columns and pale gray-green walls, provided a perfect setting for this perfect music.
The endlessly active Ms. Stevens presides over a piano quartet in Pacific Palisades and is director of chamber music for the Young Musicians Foundation at Mt. St. Mary’s in Los Angeles. Over the winter, she performed at the 100th birthday anniversary for composer John Cage at the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art. She and her husband recently returned to their up-Island abode and are settling in as she prepares for the chamber music society’s summer season.
The chamber music society, in addition to providing world-class concerts to Vineyarders at affordable ticket prices, also has a mission to promote classical music in Island schools. The program sponsors scholarships for graduating seniors and offers financial assistance for private instruction in piano, strings and flute.
And for those who missed Saturday’s concert, it was filmed by MVTV and will be aired on local cable access station in the near future.
For more information about the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society, go to mvcms.org.