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Review: Kaleidoscope brings light, lively evening of chamber music to Eddie’s Attic

Eddie's Attic began a successful chamber music series this year. (Photo by Mark Gresham)
Eddie's Attic began a successful chamber music series this year. (Photo by Mark Gresham)

Eddie’s Attic hosted another of its classical music concerts on Tuesday, performed by flutist Jessica Sherwood, violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, cellist Charae Krueger and violist William Johnston under the moniker of Kaleidoscope Chamber Music.

All four are well-known free-lance musicians in Atlanta; all have performed in various other local groups such as Sonic Generator, Fringe and the orchestras of the Atlanta Opera and Atlanta Ballet. But according to Johnston, this was the first time the four have coalesced as a quartet under the Kaleidoscope banner. (We’ll have to wait and see how that name ultimately shakes out for this foursome, as there is already a well-established Kaleidoscope Chamber Ensemble based in Boston.)

Tuesday’s was the shortest classical chamber concert at the Attic so far this year, beginning at 7:30 p.m. and ending just after 9; the room was then quickly reset for a 10 o’clock performance by singer-songwriters Keaton Simons and Jason Adamo. A classical music concert within an hour-and-a-half span is not a bad idea for the Attic, especially given that some of its previous chamber concerts either ran longer than expected or threatened to until the planned program was truncated. It also allows booking both an early and a late show of different acts and kinds of music.

Only one work involved all four of the Kaleidoscope musicians: Mozart’s Flute Quartet in C Major. It has only two movements, and they were split between the halves of the concert. The “Andantino, Theme and Variations” movement closed the first half, while the lively “Allegro” came at the end of the concert. The rest comprised trios, duos and solos.

The show opened with the first two movements from the Serenade in C Major for string trio, “March” and “Romance,” by Hungarian composer Ernő Dohnányi, played by Kim, Johnston and Krueger. Sherwood and Johnston followed with a transcription of the Duo Concertant No. 2 by François Devienne, originally for two flutes. (Devienne, a French composer and flutist who was a contemporary of Mozart’s, is not exactly a household name but became well known among flutists when Jean-Pierre Rampal championed his music in the 1960s.)

Another transcription was “Passacaglia in G minor on a Theme by George Frideric Handel” by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen, which is actually an arrangement of the Passacaglia from Handel’s Harpsichord Suite in G minor (HWV 432). Hence it is most frequently credited to “Handel-Halvorsen.” Halvorsen’s version is for violin and viola, but it is often played on violin and cello, as it was by Kim and Krueger.

Kim opened the second half with an energetic performance of Tango Etude No. 3 by Argentine composer Ástor Piazzolla, originally written for flute. Piazzolla has been a rage for a while in the chamber music world, and this etude often gets played in arrangements for other instruments, violin in particular.

Sherwood, Johnston and Krueger followed with Trio for Flute, Viola and Cello by French composer Albert Roussel. While Roussel’s earlier compositions were influenced by the so-called Impressionists, he was a classicist by temperament. His compositional style moved in the neoclassical direction in his later years, reflected in this trio from 1929, with its aura of concise elegance.

For the penultimate work, Sherwood performed a solo flute piece, “Arabesque in Memoriam” by Philip Glass, dedicating the performance to a neighbor who had died earlier in the day. Glass wrote the six-minute piece in 1988 in memory of his flute teacher, Britton Johnson. It features the composer’s signature penchant for extensive arpeggiation.

While the concert was entirely of “serious” music, it had an overall lively lightness. Add that it lasted just 90 minutes, including intermission, and the time passed swiftly and without fatigue. That doesn’t mean that musicians should avoid more heavyweight or edgy programs in future concerts at the Attic; it’s a venue where new approaches to programming ought to be tried, tested and developed. As it hosts more chamber concerts, both venue and musicians will progressively get a good feel for what works best, creates public sizzle and captures the imagination of the audience.

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