Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chamber music in a Tucson summer

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the fine arts season here in Tucson had dried up for the summer. But last Sunday, even without the missing snowbirds and despite the heat, Tucson Symphony Orchestra concert master Steven Moeckel led a piano quintet under the auspices of the St. Andrews Bach Society. The quintet included Moeckel's sister Laura on viola together with siblings Ellen and Robert Chamberlain on second violin and cello. Paula Fan, Moeckel's regular accompanist and Professor at the University of Arizona, played piano. The group played Elgar's Piano Quintet in a minor (op. 84) and Brahms' Piano Quintet in f minor (op. 34). I enjoyed both pieces very much, and the playing throughout seemed more than capable (even though Robert Chamberlain is currently a master's student). The concert was packed, and the audience was enthusiastic. However, the performance was marred by the venue, Grace St. Paul's Episcopal Church. The church is beautiful, with broad wooden beams and a number of lovely stained glass windows done in a traditional style, but the benches were rock hard and the acoustics were terrible. Episcopals spend a lot of time changing position, sometimes kneeling (they are generally the only churches I've found that still have kneelers), and sometimes standing. Churches where the congregation sits all the time seem to have more comfortable seats. As for the sound, perhaps because I was sitting on the far left side, or perhaps because the air conditioning system was too loud, the instruments all blurred together. At times I could see the instrumentalists playing pizzicato but heard nothing. The concert was recorded for a local TV/Radio station, so hopefully their microphone placement had a better sound.

The overall good news is that Tucson seems to be a chamber music town. In southern Ohio, there were a number of venues that had regular solo piano concerts, but chamber music was hard to find. This concert had excellent players and interesting pieces, so I look forward to other groups in the area.

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