The Jaffrey Center Meetinghouse echoed with the glorious sounds of Monadnock Music’s chamber music concert on Sunday afternoon, August 7. Opening the program was Ravel’s Duo for Violin and Cello, deftly dispatched by violinist Adela Peña and cellist Elizabeth Anderson. Ravel etched all the colors of his orchestral writing into this gem. Peña and Anderson clearly enjoyed playing it, and communicated that pleasure to the full house.
Next came a song cycle, Scenes from a Novel, Op. 19, by Hungarian composer György Kurtág, based on poems by Rimma Dalos, which was described by soprano Tony Arnold as the thoughts of “an obsessed woman who has misplaced her affections.” After that calm description, the well-bred singer disappeared and the obsessed woman took the stage, with remarkable results. In collaboration with cimbalom player Petra Berenyi, violinist Gabriela Diaz, and double bassist Robert Black, Arnold took us through all the stages of unrequited love, from exaltation at the thought of the beloved, to yearning for actual contact, to despair in the face of desolate reality. Outside was a glowing summer afternoon, but indoors was bleak midwinter, such was the commitment of these four artists to Kurtág’s haunting, evocative music.
After that intense journey, and following intermission, the audience was ready for the Brahms String Sextet No. 2 in G. Six superb musicians played as if they had waited all summer for just this moment. Violinists Curtis Macomber and Jesse Mills were beautifully matched in tone and temperament; violists Tawnya Popoff and Jonathan Bagg brought out Brahms’s lovely harmonies; and cellists Rafael Popper-Keizer and Elizabeth Anderson anchored the work with gorgeous sound and driving rhythm. In particular, the Presto giocoso took off like Secretariat at Pimlico.
In between movements, the Meetinghouse bell – tuned in G – chimed six o’clock. The artists held their pose as if Brahms had planned this interlude, then began the next movement without breaking character. At the end of the Poco allegro, the audience jumped to their feet and cheered.