“Presences” in NYC

This is a belated note on last Monday’s Weekend of Chamber Music program in New York at the Bathhouse Studios. Yet another fine young string quartet (there seem to be so many these days) – this one called the Verona – opened the program with Haydn’s Op. 50, Nr. 1, transparent and articulate. This was followed by the NYC premiere of John Harbison’s Presences. The piece is a chamber concerto for cello and five additional strings, in this case the Verona joined by Jeremy McCoy, double bass. Caroline Stinson of the Lark Quartet was the cello soloist. Commissioned as a memorial work for a cellist, it was the passionate moments of the piece that struck me the most, which is not to overlook the playful aspects. The inclusion of the double bass gives the music a three-dimensional quality, a certain heft and weight. I must admit Verklarte Nacht crossed my mind during the performance; not the vocabulary, but the richly ardent character of the discourse. The second half of the program was the Schubert Quintet in an eloquent performance notable for some tempi that were a bit more brisk than usual.

I plan to be back in New York on May 1 when the Lark plays the NYC premiere of Harbison’s Quartet Nr. 6 and a premiere by Andrew Waggoner at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall – tickets here.

Here’s a shot from last Wednesday. Left to right: Abigail Rojansky, Dorothy Ro, John Harbison, Caroline Stinson, Warren Hagerty (obscured), Jonathan Ong, and Jeremy McCoy.

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