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The NOVA Chamber Music Series opened its season Sunday with a concert of late 19th-century music that was more diverse than it might appear at first glance: Brahms' warm-hearted Violin Sonata No. 3, Wagner's sweetly sentimental Siegfried Idyll and Franck's impassioned Piano Quintet.
Violinist David Langr was the glue in this program, playing in all three works. He and NOVA music director Jason Hardink, one of Utah's finest pianists, opened the concert with an introspective and elegant performance of the Brahms. The two musicians were well-teamed; whether Brahms foregrounded the violin, as in the tender second movement, or the piano, as in the sprightly third, Langr and Hardink seemed to strike just the right balance.
Langr next joined a dozen instrumentalist colleagues, conducted by David Yavornitzky, in Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. Imagine waking up to a small orchestra in your house, playing a piece your spouse had written for you this was Richard Wagner's birthday present to his wife in 1870. It's an intimate, touching work, and though the acoustics of Libby Gardner Concert Hall are not especially friendly to an ensemble this size, virtually every player got a moment to shine. Of particular note were Robert Stephenson on oboe and Ron Beitel and Stephen Proser on horns.
The concert closed with Franck's Piano Quintet a work whose passion shocked Camille Saint-Saëns, who played the piano part in its world premiere. The quintet's impact hasn't lessened in the intervening 131 years. The first movement features a heated, almost confrontational, conversation between the piano and strings; the brooding second movement is likewise unsettling, albeit in a quieter way; and the finale, while more cohesive, is relentless in its intensity. Langr joined his wife, violinist Kathy Langr; violist Roberta Zalkind; cellist Noriko Kishi; and Hardink in a forceful performance.
Hardink took a moment during the setup for Siegfried Idyll to pay tribute to longtime Salt Lake City music patron M. Walker Wallace, a founder and 34-year member of the NOVA board of directors, on his retirement from the board.
NOVA Chamber Music Series
R Music of Brahms, Wagner and Franck
When • Sunday, Oct. 23
Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah