Distinctive nonet visits

Amelia Perron

Saturday night will bring the first Artist Series concert of the 2006-07 season when the Czech Nonet performs in the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel.
The nonet, one of the oldest chamber groups still performing, was founded in 1924 by a group of students at the Prague Conservatory.
While many chamber groups fit typical instrumentations – string quartets, piano trios – and have an overwhelming repertoire of music to choose from, the nonet was formed with one piece in mind: the Spohr Nonet.
The piece called for the unique combination of violin, viola, cello, bass, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon and French horn. The subsequent ensemble remains the same today.
The collection of instruments offers many possibilities. “They play a lot of Czech music, and a lot of the larger chamber works from the early 19th century, like the Schubert Octet and the Beethoven Septet,” says Lawrence viola professor Matthew Michelic.
“But they also play many contemporary pieces. A number of composers have been inspired to write works for the group. It’s a varied repertoire.”
The group finds ways to extend the possibilities even further with transcriptions and smaller groupings. “For example,” says Michelic, “On this program there’s a serenade, originally for winds, that they transcribed for winds and strings. Or sometimes they’ll break down into smaller groups; for example, the Roussel Trio they will be doing.”
Despite the distance between Prague and Appleton, the Nonet has a significant connection with Lawrence in violist Jan Nykryn. Nykryn was an exchange student at Menasha High School in the early ’90s, when he was 17.
While in Wisconsin, he studied viola with Michelic. “He was a very good viola player even then,” says Michelic. “He was active in the youth orchestra, played as a soloist with the Fox Valley Youth Symphony, and even gave a full recital while he was here.”
Nykryn and his colleagues have continued to do well. The nonet has released a number of highly acclaimed recordings and is “a joy to listen to,” according to Michelic. “They have an amazing blend of sound. It’s a refined, aristocratic type of music-making.”
The concert will be Saturday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel. Tickets are $15-22 and available through the Lawrence box office. Nykryn will be giving a master class the same day at 2:30 p.m. in the chapel.