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An Evening of Lyrical Chamber Works, with the BCMS

Boston Chamber Music Society, Sept. 19, 2021: (L to R) Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Yura Lee, viola; Max Levinson, piano; Marcus Thompson, viola; Thomas Van Dyck, bass; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
Su-pin Tsao
Boston Chamber Music Society, Sept. 19, 2021: (L to R) Jennifer Frautschi, violin; Yura Lee, viola; Max Levinson, piano; Marcus Thompson, viola; Thomas Van Dyck, bass; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello

Sunday, November 5, 2023
7:00 PM

On WCRB In Concert with the Boston Chamber Music Society, melodious chamber pieces for piano and strings by Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Saint-Saëns take center stage, capped by a world premiere by Lowell Liebermann, all from New England Conservatory's Jordan Hall.

On the program:

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART Piano Trio in C, K. 548
Yura Lee, violin
Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
Max Levinson, piano
(recorded on Sept. 19, 2021)

Lowell LIEBERMANN Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 138 (world premiere)
Romie de Guise-Langlois, clarinet
Max Levinson, piano
(recorded on Oct. 17, 2021)

Felix MENDELSSOHN Sextet in D for Piano and Strings, Op. 110
Jennifer Frautschi, violin
Yura Lee and Marcus Thompson, violas
Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
Thomas Van Dyck, double bass
Max Levinson, piano
(recorded on Sept. 19, 2021)

Sándor VERESS Memento for Viola and Double Bass (1983)
Marcus Thompson, viola
Thomas Van Dyck, double bass
(recorded on Sept. 19, 2021)

Camille SAINT-SAËNS Piano Quartet in B-Flat, Op. 41
Yura Lee, violin
Marcus Thompson, viola
Raman Ramakrishnan, cello
Max Levinson, piano
(recorded on Oct. 17, 2021)

This concert is no longer available on demand.

Hear BCMS Artistic Director Marcus Thompson preview the program with WCRB's Alan McLellan with the audio player above, and follow along with the transcript below.


Alan McLellan Marcus Thompson, artistic director of the Boston Chamber Music Society, thank you so much for being willing to chat in these pandemic times.

Marcus Thompson Oh, thank you for having me Alan.

Alan McLellan So what was the first concert you had after March of 2020?

Marcus Thompson Well, our concerts, BCMS concerts, were in a studio, in [GBH's] Fraser Studio, and we're not quite live streamed, but, you know, taped for our audience.

Alan McLellan So you kept going through.

Marcus Thompson We we kept going, thanks to our supporters and our board. And so our first public concert in a concert hall was in Jordan Hall this past September. Or was it October?

Alan McLellan September.

Marcus Thompson It was September, yes.

Alan McLellan Yeah, yeah. September, 2021. That must have been quite an experience.

Marcus Thompson It was quite a relief on a number of points. And one of them was that we had not played in Jordan Hall as an ensemble for more than a decade. So we had come to be quite at home at Sanders [Theatre in Cambridge] and Sanders was not possible. So we were back in the "Rabbit in the Brier Patch," so to speak, you know, back in a place that we enjoy as much.

Alan McLellan Well, that's great. And people, I'm sure, must have responded in an enthusiastic way.

Marcus Thompson Yes, yes. We had a very nice, warm reception.

Alan McLellan We are melding a couple of different programs here, and the one from September included Mozart and Mendelssohn for a special reason. Can you talk about that?

Marcus Thompson Well, yes, [Mozart and Mendelssohn] have a number of things in common. One was that they were both discovered as young geniuses. They astonished everyone for miles around. They could do things that no one imagined possible. But, of course, they were born, you know, many years apart. But the one thing they had in common was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the poet who had met each of them as children. And so he was given to comparing what one was like with what the other one was. And so he was comparing Mozart to Mendelssohn.

Alan McLellan So he must have met Mozart when he was, himself, Goethe, very young.

Marcus Thompson Yes, that's right. So that also shapes his characterization.

Alan McLellan Yeah, that's fascinating. And these pieces are a late piano trio by Mozart. Can you talk about that piece?

Marcus Thompson Well, it's an astonishing piece. It's hard, there aren't any words, you know, it's magic. And it's, you know, there are just so many moments of depth and surprise. It's the mature Mozart. So, you know, that is about all I can say about it. The Mendelssohn, on the other hand, is early Mendelssohn, even though it has a high opus number, Opus 110. It was written for himself to play in a house concert for his family and friends, and it is an unusual scoring because it has two violas, cello, bass, one violin, and piano. And so he played the piano - very flashy part - and the two violas remind you of the relationship to the Mozart viola quintets. And there are moments where the two violists play together and rumble along and that remind you of the C Major Viola Quintet. And of course, having the bass there brings this almost a kind of symphonic stability into the home that you would normally only hear in the concert stage. So it's a very unusual piece. There isn't another one scored like it.

Alan McLellan And you have the new bass player associated with the Boston Chamber Music Society.

Marcus Thompson Yes, Thomas van Dyck is a member of the Boston Symphony and has been known around town for many years, and we were just lucky to work with him for a long time and happy to have him with us.

Alan McLellan It's nice to have two pieces that feature the bass on this program. There's a piece called "Memento," by Sándor Veress.

Marcus Thompson This is a piece, as you say, called "Memento," which was written to memorialize two friends of his who I think died early. And so, of course, there are two players. And viola and cello are two dark instruments, and so there's a darkness about it. It's a piece that becomes more and more animated and then returns to the quiet opening as a very nice ending.

Alan McLellan Yeah, it's a beautiful piece, and it's nice to feature yourself, but also Tom van Dyck.

Marcus Thompson Yes. Yes, it was our way of - that and the Mendelssohn - was a way of welcoming him to the ensemble. This was our first concert.

Alan McLellan That's great. So then we go to [Lowell] Lieberman and a new brand new piece. Can you talk about this?

Marcus Thompson Well, I got a call from Romie de Guise-Langlois to find out if BCMS would be interested in hosting a premiere of the piece and at the time...

Alan McLellan Clarinetist, Romie de Guise-Langlois.

Marcus Thompson Yes, the clarinetist. And she has, of course, with us for a number of years, on and off. So she's very well known to our audiences and beyond. And so she asked about the possibility of, would BCMS host this. And I said, well, I'm sorry, but we only do host commissions for the people who are member musicians. So, I could invite her to become a member musician.

Alan McLellan So that was the logical conclusion.

Marcus Thompson That was the logical conclusion. And so, you know, we're all better for it because the piece is a masterpiece, for, certainly, a master clarinetist. And Max Levinson, of course, is masterful in it as well. And so I think our audience was pleasantly surprised by having such a wonderful introduction.

Alan McLellan Fantastic piece. Yeah, and sometimes you find yourself with a new piece, you find yourself with question marks in your head as an audience member, and I don't think this was quite like that.

Marcus Thompson That's right. Every new piece, people receive apprehensively and hope that over time, it will take its place. And this, of course, you know, shot right out of the box as something that everyone embraced. And that composer really knows how to capture the moods and feelings in a way that some others don't.

Alan McLellan And this Saint-Saëns is such a warm, lovely piece. People know "The Carnival of the Animals," but the Saint-Saëns Piano Quartet is also a joy.

Marcus Thompson Yes, it is. But you know, people know "The Carnival of the Animals," and it's fair to say that he was ashamed of "The Carnival of the Animals" and wouldn't allow it to be published during his lifetime. And so we have to hear this Piano Quartet, one that he took very seriously, through the knowledge of the other piece first. So, things that he intended to be humorous asides that appear in this piece, they may change how you see it or hear it as a serious piece. And certainly, I think that's one of the reasons it hasn't been played as much as quartets by other folks, by quartets and quintets, by Franck and Fauré, and some other contemporaries.

Alan McLellan Because you always think that Saint-Saëns has his tongue in cheek?

Marcus Thompson Yes, exactly. But there's a great deal of heft and power in this piece and poetry. And when it's light, it's light and gorgeous. And you know, we also know the Third Symphony ["Organ"] a lot because, you know, we hear the BSO with its great recordings of that over the years...

Alan McLellan And the wonderful organ...

Marcus Thompson And the organ and all that. And I mean, it's very distinctly Saint-Saëns. And I remember that after we played it, the musicians came off stage and said, we have to play that again, that's really wonderful. That's really a fine piece. So I think that says a lot.

Alan McLellan Yeah. And is that going to happen?

Marcus Thompson Yes.

Alan McLellan That's great. Marcus Thompson, thank you so much for your time. And and we're looking forward to this program very much.

Marcus Thompson Thank you so much.