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Monday, February 15, 2021

Vienna Then, Brooklyn Now

From the Classical Vault Dept.: Capitol Chamber Artists presented 50 seasons of intimate works throughout the Albany, NY, area. Not surprisingly, their activities were put on pandemic hold. Here’s a look back at one of their charmingly themed events, this one from 1985.


Capitol Chamber Artists continues to prove that you don’t need to import a glamour group from Europe for a fine chamber-music performance. In fact, the community-based ensemble provides a sense of neighborly informality that contributes a lot to the fun to the group’s concerts.

Aaron Copland
The ensemble amended its Sunday afternoon program at the Albany Institute of History and Art from “Vienna Then, New York Now” to “ ... Brooklyn Now,” because the two New York-based composers represented both hail from that borough.

Introduced by violinist Mary Lou Saetta and flutist Irvin Gilman, the opening work was Louis Haber’s “Six Miniatures for Flute and Violin.” Haber, himself a practicing violinist, wrote the piece while working on the Broadway show “Subways Are for Sleeping,” Gilman explained.
The six movements, which range from a march to a pastorale to a delightful South American dance, combine the instruments quite skilfully, and offer each a chance to display its voice. The performance, all the way through the fast perpetuum-mobile finale, was first-rate.

With Janet Rowe taking the viola part, the group then took a look at Vienna Then, in particular that of the young Beethoven, whose Serenade in D, Opus 25, ended the first half of the program. It was nicely paired with the Haber work, for it, too, demonstrated the composer’s superior knowledge of his instruments, and also demonstrated, as Ms. Saetta observed during her introduction to the work, the beginnings of Beethoven’s characteristic feistiness.

The ensemble was back in Brooklyn for the second half, with Aaron Copland’s 1928 composition “Two Pieces for String Quartet.” Although identified with his orchestral ballet scores, Copland has a somewhat different voice in his chamber music.

The first piece, a lento molto movement, featured long, slow melodic lines; the concluding rondino reflected his use of jazz idioms. With Saetta and Rowe on violins, the quartet also included Angelo Frascarelli on viola and Chris Bianchi playing cello.

The musicians easily surmounted the difficulties of the Copland, and gave further proof of their ability with the concluding work, Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” in an arrangement (or de-arrangement might be better) for string quartet. Rarely heard with so few instruments, the piece benefits from the scoring as it lays bare the beautiful layers which make up the work, and is further proof of the composer’s genius, aptly celebrated on what was his 229th birthday.

– Albany Knickerbocker News, 29 January 1985

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