By Jim Berkenstock, Artistic Director, Midsummer’s Music
Musical Fireworks, Passionate Outbursts, Stunning Virtuosity …. Only a few performances remain until our early August break, but Jeepers—are they dynamite!
I just came from a rehearsal of our Lush and Thrilling Romantic Poetry program that opens Wedneday evening at Sister Bay Moravian Church. J.J. Koh was rehearsing the Weber Clarinet Quintet with our quartet of strings. I didn’t know the clarinet could play so many notes, and J.J. traverses the most difficult passages with such seeming ease. Remarkable playing! Weber wrote this piece, and a number of other solo works, for a virtuoso clarinetist, Heinrich Bärmann, with whom he became acquainted in the early 19th century. The clarinet was still a relatively new instrument, but Bärmann must have really figured out what it was capable of, otherwise Weber would never have composed something so over-the-top. Like Mozart and Brahms, Weber found a clarinet muse to inspire him to extraordinary accomplishments
But that’s the thing about Romantic music, it pushes the limits in every direction – passion, excitement, sentiment, color …. That’s why we love it—right? Well, you’ll love the Weber. Remember he was a great opera composer that set the stage at the beginning of a very dynamic century leading to Wagner, Strauss, and others. That sense of drama he filled his stage works with pours over into this chamber music.
Before J.J. takes the solo position, however, we begin with another tribute to Schubert on his 225th birthday. His Quarttetsatz (Quartet Movement) is one of three Schubert works we are doing this season. We know from his heart-rending Unfinished Symphony, that Schubert sometimes didn’t complete a compositional project. This Quartet Movement is a masterpiece, and it just may have been that Schubert couldn’t find suitable music with which to follow it that was of a similar level. He did start a couple of other movements that were to follow, but the notes just kind of trail off forlornly.
Following the Schubert is the wonderful discovery of the night, Friedrich Gernsheim’s Divertimento for Flute, String Quartet, and Bass. I have wanted to program something by the neglected Gernsheim for some time, and this work for Flute and Strings is the perfect introduction to a wonderfully talented composer. Gernsheim was highly regarded in his day, but following his death in the early 20th century, his music was “disappeared” with the rise of the Third Reich when they, because of Gernsheim’s Jewish heritage, deemed such music “degenerate.” We are pleased to make a small atonement for this travesty along with other groups who are rediscovering his music. The work, as its title suggests, is light-hearted in nature, but don’t let that fool you. It is full of passion and lovely melodies, and our superb flutist, with her beautiful tone and flawless execution, will help you realize why this work was performed so frequently during Gernsheim’s lifetime.
Sprinkled in amongst the four performances of this program is another program you should not miss. Thursday night, at the Kress Pavilion in Egg Harbor, Jeannie Yu, David Perry, and James Waldo will play the final concert of our program entitled “Trio Magic.” Yes, it is magic, but it is also mesmerizing, transporting, astounding, and sensational. In short, it is one of the best programs I have ever attended. Jean and I have heard it twice, and it is transfixing. We heard it on Sunday at the home of Dianne Trenchard, and the audience leapt to their feet at the end with shouts of “Bravo” and extended, robust applause. Please make sure you get to hear this one remaining concert. It is so memorable. I can’t stop thinking about it, and the themes keep running through my head. It features one of Schubert’s greatest masterpieces, his Piano Trio in E-flat major. I can’t bear the thought of someone missing this phenomenal musical event, and I will be so sorry to see it go.
I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but next week, we will feature a work by the “Father of Ukrainian Music,” Mykola Lysenko. When we programmed this, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was relatively new and profoundly disturbing. As it drags on, it is important to remember the terrible destruction and misery that is still going on. This string quartet movement, by the composer of the Ukrainian national anthem, has much the same pathos as does his anthem and will certainly bring some tears to the eyes of at least a few. The program also includes Dvořák’s great Piano Quintet and brings back Jeannie Yu.
Fill in your calendar now because much great music will all flash by. Start by checking out the following that occur this week:
Lush and Thrilling Romantic Poetry
- Wednesday, July 20, 7:00 pm, Sister Bay Moravian Church
- Friday, July 22, 7:00 pm, First Baptist Church, Sister Bay
- Saturday, July 23, 7:00 pm, Hope Church, Sturgeon Bay
- Sunday, July 24, 5:00 pm, Woodwalk Gallery, Egg Harbor
Trio Magic (final performance)
- Thursday, July 21, 7:00 pm, Kress Pavilion, Egg Harbor
Call 920.854.7088 or visit www.midsummersmusic.com for tickets or further information. What you’ll hear is what we all need, and it’s happening NOW. Join us, please.