French Chamber Music Fills Good Shepherd Center

Last Saturday’s Camerata Northwest recital at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford showed the depth of classical music in Seattle. Camerata Northwest was started by John Scanlon, a violist from Tacoma, for the purpose of bringing high-quality chamber music to audiences at a reasonable price. The Camerata joins a multitude of other organizations who are doing basically the same thing in and around Seattle.

The recital – a French impressionistic and romantic affair, done in reverse chronological order – was competing with an unusually nice spring day. Instead of preparing flower gardens, walking around Green Lake, or doing some early spring cleaning, a respectable crowd made their way to the recital.

The recital began with Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. The sonata is reminiscent of Ravel’s String Quartet with its cyclical structure. Ravel’s writing for the instruments is both spartan and dense. The vacillation between these two extremes balances out the two parts. For Saturday’s performance, Heather Blackburn, cello, and Shin-young Kwon, violin, played. Below is a very short clip from the potent second movement

Following the sonata, Charles Noble, a violist with the Oregon Symphony joined pianist, Cary Lewis for Vieuxtemps’s Elegie

for Viola and Piano. The Elegie can also be played on a cello, but the viola’s middle range seemed well suited for the ruminating quality of the piece.  I would like to hear the piece played on a cello sometime.

After a short intermission, all four musicians came out to play Saint Saens’s rarely heard Quartet for Piano and Strings in E Major. Scanlon called the Elegie a pallet cleanser.  I have to disagree.  Saint Saens’s unabashably, old-fashioned quartet was the real cleanser.  The quartet was fun to hear, easy on the ears, and a delieriously great way to close a recital on the first tolerable spring day of 2009.

During intermission, Scanlon urged the audience to spread the word about the Camerata Northwest. The recession has taken a toll on ticket sales and contributions. Organizations like Scanlon’s, make Seattle’s music scene vibrant and diverse.  I hope the recession ends soon; we need more organizations like Scanlon’s, not fewer.


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