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SONOS Shines in Kresge

Chamber Music by Schubert, Turina, Brahms

By Bogdan Fedeles

Staff Writer


Kresge Auditorium

Nov. 3, 4 p.m.

SONOS, a Boston-area chamber music ensemble, performed an enjoyable program comprised of Schubert’s Trio for Strings in Bb, D. 581, Turina’s Circulo, Op. 91, and Brahms’ Quartet for Piano and Strings in A Major, Op. 26, in Kresge Auditorium Sunday afternoon. A decent number of chamber music enthusiasts -- few of them students -- received the group’s fine performances with warm applause.

SONOS is a well-balanced mix of faculty members from Boston University (Bayla Keyes, violin, and Michael Reynolds, cello) and MIT (Marcus Thompson, viola, and David Deveau, piano), all experienced and accomplished musicians.

The concert started with the Schubert String Trio, a piece with a directness of style reminiscent of the early classical era. However, these features make it more difficult to render its delicate character.

SONOS took the piece too lightly and it eventually sounded unconvincing. The first movement started hesitantly and found its pace only in the repeat of the exposition. The slow movement had the right tension and sweetness but at times lacked a certain security. The faster Minuet and Trio had unconvincing dynamic contrasts and even some intonation problems. Eventually, the Finale showcased better dynamic development and featured good ensemble work, which concluded the piece in a more uplifting way.

Turina’s Circulo, a fantasia for piano, violin and cello, followed. A Spanish composer who lived between 1882 and 1949, Turina witnessed the transition of the musical language from late romanticism to expressionism and beyond. His music shows this transition, often embellished with Spanish folklore-inspired tunes. Circulo (Spanish for “circle”) is a beautiful musical parable. The music employs both auditory and visual imagery, as suggested by the titles of the movements, Amanecer, Melodia, and Crepusculo (English for “dawn,” “melody,” and “sunset”).

SONOS delivered a heartfelt performance of Circulo. The well-executed rolls on the piano conveyed a true fantastic character, which was well-maintained throughout the piece by the ensemble’s rich sonority. The players displayed a wide range of dynamics, and they were very effective in dealing with the sudden-changing mood of the piece.

Amanecer began softly and built up tension consistently, until the calculated outburst of the Spanish folk tune, Melodia. The melody sounded sweet and natural both on the piano and on the strings. The piece then started growing dimmer and softer, right up to its ending, a magical dissipation. SONOS’ excellent performance was also visually spiced up with Deveau’s theatrical gestures, which were effective at times but perhaps overused.

The second part of the concert featured Brahms’ A Major Piano Quartet. This magnificent piece shows the romantic impetus of a young Brahms but also highlights the composer’s unique style on the verge of becoming more and more refined. All four musicians unified their skills to deliver a solid and very musical performance of Brahms’ massive piece.

The first movement started with the piano presenting the main theme, quickly repeated by the strings. The trill motif of the theme was highlighting in every register and dynamic range, and the difficult unison string passages sounded very good, blending naturally with the sparkling piano figuration, which well balanced and expressively played.

The slow movement was rendered with serene sweetness and passion, as the tone quality was admirable and the tempo well sustained. The flowing Scherzo, with its technical demands, was convincingly rendered, even though some fast passages sounded a little blurry.

A reminder of Brahms’ passion for simple folk tunes, the Finale was full of rhythmic diversity. This movement sounded very flowing and featured intensely played dynamic contrasts. The overall performance of Brahms’ quartet sounded refined and startling, leaving the listener very satisfied.