This chamber music concert revealed yet another aspect of why the Music Academy of the West’s (MAW) program of partnering with the world’s great symphony orchestras adds so much to the season’s experience. Mixing musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO) with the MAW faculty and one very talented young performer, the evening’s selections covered a lot of musical ground, and concluded with one of the 20th century’s acknowledge landmarks in the chamber repertoire, Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.
The opening number was a composition in three movements for flute and marimba by Toru Takemitsu. Titled Toward the Sea, the piece included sections depicting “The Night,” “Moby Dick,” and “Cape Cod.” Despite the hominess of the section names, this was a classic Takemitsu piece not only requiring virtuosic control of timbre and dynamics but also full of moments of exquisite spectral beauty. LSO’s Gareth Davies (on flute) and Neil Percy (marimba) gave an impeccable account of this moving and rare masterpiece.
Next came a sextet from the Hungarian composer Ernst von Dohnányi featuring musicians from the MAW faculty and one fellow, the clarinetist Sara Han. Quirky and light, with lots of lightning-fast dynamic shifts and staggered repetitions, the work exemplified the kind of sophisticated music that separates the professional repertoire from music composed for amateur players. What followed was the ultimate in statements about the social nature of chamber music, and the need for it to exist everywhere that humans meet. Famously written and performed for the first time in a Nazi prisoner of war camp, Messiaen’s quartet is full of extravagant beauty and lost and lonely testimony. The MAW faculty members—including Richie Hawley, clarinet; Jorja Fleezanis, violin; Alan Stepansky, cello; and Conor Hanick, piano—dispatched with this modern masterpiece in a molten, continuously evolving ensemble effort, leaving the audience stunned and transported.