Boston Artists Ensemble transports audience back with Mozart and Haydn

January 7, 2023 at 1:34 pm

By Devin Cholodenko

Music of Mozart and Haydn was performed by Boston Artists Ensemble Friday night in Salem.

For their first concert of the new year, Boston Artists Ensemble presented music of Mozart and Haydn Friday night in Salem’s Hamilton Hall. From the polished and nuanced musicianship, to the programming, the historic venue, ornate chandeliers, and the intimate ambiance—complete with lamp-lit music stands—the group’s personal and authentic approach transported the audience back to an Enlightenment era, 18th century salon.

Mozart’s String Quintet No. 1 in G flat opened the evening. Like all of Mozart’s works in the genre, K. 174 is a “viola quintet” with an extra viola added to the standard string quartet instrumentation.

If in the modern perspective Haydn sometimes lives in Mozart’s shadow, Boston Artists Ensemble reminded us that this was not always the case. There is a prominent Haydn influence in Mozart’s debut string quintet, and the ensemble nicely brought out the asymmetries of phrase, the surprise interruptions, and other echt-Haydn play. 

Yet the players also conveyed Mozart’s youthful charm in this early work with a lithe and energetic interpretation. Violist Rebecca Gitter’s rich and dark timbre was a lovely counterpoint to the articulate and brilliant sound of violinist Julianne Lee. Despite a momentary unbalance in the trio of the Menuetto, the musicians offered a dynamic and sonorous reading, culminating in a joyous final allegro.

Haydn was the centerpiece of the concert with his “Lark” quartet. The fifth of the Op. 64 set, the Quartet in D major combines galant-era major tonality with Sturm und Drang  moments. These contrasts proved particularly effective and moving in the Boston Artists Ensemble performance, as in the first movement’s development, where a unified interpretation amplified the natural contours of the work. The Adagio showcased the sublime cantabile playing of first violinist Lee. As much an aria as an instrumental adagio, her approach was both balanced and extremely expressive, offering the touch of a romanticism that was effective in the high passages. The ensemble as a unit embraced a somewhat romantic approach,  which occasionally forfeited a bit of Haydn’s lightness in the minor passages. As in the preceding Mozart, the finale was approached at a rousing sprint.

Mozart’s String Quintet No. 5 closed the evening. From the poignant opening conversation between cellist Jonathan Miller and the violins, the ensemble highlighted the maturity and sophistication of K. 593, providing striking contrast with the earlier quintet. A hitch in the final Allegro was quickly bypassed by the high-octane triplet runs passing from instrument to instrument, insistently playful and jovial. 

The program will be repeated 3 p.m. January 8 at St. Paul’s Church in Brookline.

Devin Cholodenko is a composer and violist from New York City. He is currently pursuing a doctorate at the University of Miami in composition and theory.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Boston Artists Ensemble transports audience back with Mozart and Haydn”

  1. Posted Jan 09, 2023 at 3:13 pm by MaryAnn Smith

    Devin Cholodenko’s report on the Boston Artists Ensemble’s performance in Salem at Hamilton Hall ( Friday, January 6, 2023) is an explicit, exquisite piece of writing that makes the reader feel quite present in the venue and at the concert. Thank you!

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