My wife and I visited our favorite Peak District pub, the Fox House, the day before Valentine's Day. She made the experience even more wonderful for me by telling me that she had purchased tickets for an upcoming concert. After a great week of work in which I got to teach my first tutorial of the current semester, my wife and I made our way to The Crucible Theater for the concert. What a lovely hour of music we experienced on a Saturday afternoon!
I love experiencing chamber music in person because of the intimate feel one has with the performers. Unlike listening to the music on an iPod, watching a live performance affords one the chance to see how the performers experience the music. It had been many years since I witnessed chamber music in person, mostly because of being a workaholic and using free time for family and martial arts.
Yesterday I was introduced to the music of Sterndale Bennett, who was born in Sheffield 200 years ago. My wife and I sat in Tier 1, which was the top of the cozy theater. Because we aren't from the UK, I told my wife that we were Tier 1 Imports (I got the expected eye roll after a corny joke!). Before the music started, Tim Horton, the pianist, talked to the audience about Sterndale Bennett, his music, and the performers' interest in celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth year. How great to hear a Sheffield composer in a Sheffield theater!
The piece we heard was Bennett's Chamber Trio in A Op. 26. Composed in 1839, the piece was positively delightful. I particularly enjoyed watching Gemma Rosefield on cello as she faced Benjamin Nabarro on violin. During the second movement, the serenade, the string instruments were alternately plucked. I had the image of two children talking back and forth with each other, two plucky children. The piano was like a parent keeping the children from getting too wild. I'm no musical expert, and I may have butchered what a connoisseur would describe for that second movement, but that was my honest feeling while watching it. I could see Rosefield's face really well and she played with a lot of plucky passion. She was fun to watch! I will definitely check out more of Bennett's music.
After a brief intermission, a quartet prepared to play String Quartet in A Op. 41 No.3 by Robert Schumann. I had heard this piece many years ago. It was composed in 1842 during Schumann's "year of chamber music." Joining Rosenfield and Nabarro were violinist Claudia Ajmone-Marsan and violist Ruth Gibson. Prior to the beginning of the music, Nabarro regaled us with his obvious love and passion for Schumann's music. He compared themes in the Bennett piece we had just heard with the Schumann piece we were about to hear.
I don't know why children were on my mind, but I had another thought of a child while listening to the Schumann piece. It's great music with lots of passion from the quartet of performers. During the third movement, the adagio molto, the viola seems a bit sad. Gibson looked sad while playing. As the fourth movement, the finale allegro molto vivace, got going, it looked like Nabarro's violin was talking to Gibson's viola, almost perking her up as the music progressed. I had the image of the sad child in the third movement getting cheered up and joining the others in the fourth movement. Again, a connoisseur might think I'm nuts for such imagery, but I'm sticking with it!
I thank my wife for a great Valentine's gift. It was a delightful hour during which I could experience new feelings while encountering great music.