Frisson Ensemble Creates Excitement in Last Concert of Season

by David Rodgers

GREENSBORO – The Frisson Ensemble from New York City gave a stellar performance on Tuesday evening, August 6, in the United Church of Christ in Greensboro, in what was the last concert of Summer Music from Greensboro’s current summer series. The five musicians, all with very impressive credentials, lived up to the meaning of the group’s name, “frisson” in French signifying a shiver or thrill of excitement, which the audience of music lovers certainly experienced in the well-chosen program that evening.

The Frisson Ensemble began with a work by the Austrian composer Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), a suite of four selections from the original 14 incidental pieces written by Korngold in 1920 for Shakespeare’s comedy, “Much Ado About Nothing.” These musical vignettes capture the rhythms of the comedy’s scenes with Romantic effusiveness in well-developed themes, from the richly harmonized “Maiden in the Bridal Chamber” to the somewhat satirical “March of the Watch” (Dogberry and Verges, to the billowing melodic lines of the “Scene in the Garden” and the celebratory dance beat of the final “Hornpipe.” Marika Bournaki played the piano with a commanding presence and Julian Schwarz evoked the most beautiful dark color and phrasing from his 1742 Italian cello.

Gabriel Faure (1845-1924) was one of the finest melodists of the French composers of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, from his solo piano to chamber and orchestral works to his vocal pieces. His “Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 120” of 1922-23 was one of his last creations but shows no diminution in his imaginative powers. The three movements, Allegro ma non troppo, Andantino and Allegro vivo, have a great sweeping momentum as the instruments blend together in wonderful harmonies, expressing a joie de vivre that is quintessentially French. In theatric scoring, the piano, violin and cello echo each other as they share and explore the various themes, with dramatic cascades of notes from the piano in the final movement. Marika Bournaki on piano, Julian Schwarz on cello and Avi Nagin on violin together showed flawless ensemble coordination combined with a depth of feeling for the music.

Following the intermission, the Frisson Ensemble performed the “Oboe Quartet in F major (K.370)” for violin, viola, cello, piano and oboe by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1731), written in 1781. it begins with an Allegro having an immediately engaging melody on the oboe of the most exquisite purity, reminding us of what Vitruvius described as a fundamental characteristic of architecture, “delight”, which certainly applies as well to music. This joyfulness continues in the slower Adagio second movement, with many virtuoso passages for the oboe, and culminates in the Rondeau: Allegro in a particularly sparkling theme. Tom Gallant demonstrated his full mastery of the oboe, handling the technically challenging sections with ease, and he was fully supported by Avi Nagin on violin, Aria Cheregosha on viola, Julian Schwarz on cello and Marika Bournaki on piano. Our only regret is that it did not go on for much longer!

The “Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47,” of Robert Schumann (1810-1856) was written in 1842 in a burst of creative output that indicates that he had found his own original voice. The Sostenuto assai-Allegro ma non troppo begins the work slowly but then takes off, the main melody unfolding by degrees. Schumann varies the tempos by slow-fast juxtapositions in succession, the four instruments woven together with breathtaking skill. The drive accelerates in the Scherzo Molto vivace, Trio I and Trio II, with some agitated rhythms, while the following Andante cantabile by contrast has a more relaxed tempo with lots of feeling in its fine melody, each instrument featured in turn. The last movement, Finale: Vivace, has some especially gorgeous cello sections interspersed within the dynamic lyricism of the main theme, all of which builds up to a triumphant ending. The Frisson Ensemble gave an exciting performance of this masterpiece of the chamber music repertoire, and they fully deserved the standing ovation they received from the appreciative audience.

All three of the groups in the Summer Music from Greensboro series this season, the Horszowski Trio, the Neave Trio, and the Frisson Ensemble, have had high energy musicians of exemplary professionalism, and we look forward to next summer for the continuation of this amazing gift of beauty and excellence to our community.