The Boston Chamber Music Society has built an ardent and loyal following for its loving and faithful treatment of all things Romantic. This August, in the Hamel Summer Series at 8 p.m. on four Saturday nights at Watertown’s Arsenal Center for the Arts, BCMS presents four programs that look behind the veil of fame and reveal, side-by-side with works of the masters, lesser-known masterpieces by some of those with whom they had close relationships.
As home to the Hamel Summer Series for the past three seasons the air-conditioned Mosesian Theater, at the heart of the Arsenal Center for the Arts, is located minutes from Harvard and Central Squares, near downtown Watertown, on the #70 bus line. The 350-seat tiered-theater boasts unobstructed views from every angle and an intimacy that heightens the clarity and focus of each ensemble performance. It is also in close proximity to several fine restaurants and abundant free parking.
In the first concert on August 3rd, two works by Joseph Joachim, Andantino und Allegro Scherzoso for Violin and Piano, Op. 1 and Romanza for Viola and Piano serve as openers for Clara Schumann’s rarely heard Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 17 and her husband Robert’s great Piano Quartet in E-flat major, Op. 47. As a young violinist Joseph Joachim played violin duos with Felix Mendelssohn, and appeared in his Gewandhaus concert debut on the same program with Clara Schumann and Felix Mendelssohn. He is probably best remembered for his assistance to Brahms in scoring his string chamber music as well as editing the solo part and writing a cadenza for the Violin Concerto.
On August 10th the second concert opens with the Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 32 by William Sterndale Bennett. As a young English composer of seventeen Bennett’s performance of his own piano concerto earned favorable attention from Felix Mendelssohn who was in the audience. Mendelssohn invited him to visit Germany where Bennett received greater encouragement and wider recognition and friendship from Robert Schumann who noted in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik “Were there many artists like Sterndale Bennett, all fears for the future progress of our art would be silenced.” One of Bennett’s famous pupils was Sir Charles Hubert Hastings Parry, composer of Jerusalem, and I was Glad, two of the better-known English Anthems heard at the marriage ceremony for Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Piano Trio in G minor by John Thomson also gained praise from Mendelssohn in a letter of introduction to his family.
The August 17th concert commences with Short Pieces for Violin and Piano by Sir Charles H. H. Parry, whose earliest influences came from the music of Bach, Brahms and Wagner. The Parry pieces will be followed by the first of Dvořák’s two Piano Quartets, this one in D major. The second of Brahms’s three great Piano Quartets, the A major, concludes the concert. Brahms is known to have greatly admired Dvořák’s gift for melody, and included him in a list of his favorite younger composers. In recent seasons BCMS has performed works by two others from that list: Robert Fuchs (Clarinet Quintet) and Julius Röntgen (Lyrische Gänge, lieder for Voice, Viola, and Piano).
The Hamel Summer Series concludes on August 24th with a two truly great works by Franz Schubert and two by close admirers and brilliant associates: Jan Václav Voříšek, and Franz Lachner. Voříšek’s early Rondo for Cello and Piano, Op. 2 is the early product of a precocious talent who at the age of twenty-two had moved from Prague to Vienna in order to seek greater musical opportunities and challenges. Once there he studied piano with Hummel, met Beethoven, and became a close friend of Schubert’s. His work shows melodic influences of Schubert.
Franz Lachner was a well-respected composer and conductor in his day but is now mostly remembered for his friendship with Schubert and for choosing to set some of the same texts to song. With the performance of Lachner’s Two Songs for Voice Clarinet and Piano followed closely by Schubert’s The Shepherd on the Rock for the same forces listeners will have the opportunity to compare how each advanced the art and embellishment of the lied.
Schubert’s late great Piano Trio in B-flat major, D.898 brings the concert and series to a close and hopefully whets the appetite for late Schubert to come. His Fantasie in F minor, D. 940 for Piano Four Hands is featured in the opening concert of the Sanders Series on Sunday, October 27 at 7:30. (The premiere of the Fantasie was played by Schubert and, coincidently, Lachner!)
Throughout the season to follow there will be two more Brahms Piano Quartets and two concerts on the MIT Series featuring two extraordinary quintets by the man known as the “Russian Brahms”, Sergey Taneyev. His rarely heard opera Oresteia will be performed in late July and early August in New York State as part of the Bard Festival.
Ticketing information is here.