Chamber music, Montag through Sonntag

Sonia Emmons

Sunday, Jan. 7 the Lawrence Academy of Music’s Academy Chamber Ensembles gave their winter concert in Harper Hall. The small performance hall offers a genial setting that is ideal for chamber music, and on Sunday it was nearly full.
The concert program consisted of four string ensembles, four piano trios, and one violin sonata. A work for chamber orchestra concluded the concert.
The selections ranged in style and time period and included a Bach string trio, a two-cello quartet by Russian Romantic composer Anton Arensky, and a piano trio by the modern German composer Julius Klengel.
A particularly interesting instrumental combination was the sonata written for bassoon, cello and harpsichord by George Friedrich Handel.
The Lawrence Academy chamber musicians are mainly high school students, though two attend college and a few are still in junior high school.
They all expressed an appreciation for the closeness that results from chamber playing. Miranda Hada, violinist in the Arensky quartet, remarked, “You really get to know the other players. I like the small group atmosphere better than large orchestras.”
A highlight of the concert was the Brahms Violin Sonata in D minor, played by Paul Hauer on violin and Britt Johnson on piano. After a vivid performance of the presto agitato movement, they were joined by Ben Lindsay on cello for Bedrich Smetana’s Piano Trio in G minor.
The group skillfully communicated the contrasting moods of the piece, playing energetically in the rousing outer sections and settling nicely into the reflective nature of the middle.
The Academy Chamber Ensembles boast two especially versatile musicians. Hannah Bleier plays viola and piano, and Stephanie Smith was heard on both the bassoon and the violin.
The Academy Chamber Ensembles program began in 1999 under the direction of Carol Leybourn, chamber music director at the academy. String players and pianists meet weekly to play repertoire from the 18th century to the present.
Leybourn believes that chamber music is unique.
“Through chamber music,” she maintains, “students gain confidence and independence. In this way, it is different from large orchestral playing.”
Leybourn lived in Germany for four years, and wanted to bring some part of that experience back to the academy. The program says it all: From the Donnerstag Baroque Ensemble to the Freitag Quartet, each group is named after the German day of the week on which they rehearse.
Some rehearsals are even conducted in German, if the musicians know or currently study the language of the great musical masterminds — Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and others.
Not only did Sunday’s performance display the talent and dedication of these young musicians, it also offered a good reason to spend the afternoon listening to music heard less frequently than other classical works.
Violinist Paul Hauer says it best: “Chamber music is just great music.