Lydian String Quartet performs in Slosberg
On Sunday evening, the Lydian String Quartet performed in Slosberg Recital Hall, along with assorted guests, for a performance titled “Gabriel Fauré: A Chamber Music Retrospective,” as part of Fauré Festival Weekend. The Lydian performance was the culmination of a two-day celebration of renowned French composer Gabriel Fauré.
This is far from the Lydian String Quartet’s debut campus appearance: The group is made up entirely of Brandeis faculty members in the Music Department, and they perform routinely at the Slosberg Center and at other local venues throughout the year. They have also traveled extensively beyond borders, putting on critically acclaimed performances throughout Europe. Currently, the quartet is made up of violinists Prof. Daniel Stepner (MUS) and Prof. Judith Eissenberg (MUS), violist Prof. Mark Berger (MUS) and cellist Prof. Joshua Gordon (MUS).
The event was the brainchild of Lydian quartet member Stepner. In an email to the Justice, Stepner said, “I love Fauré’s music and feel it is woefully underappreciated in this country, so I conceived the idea of a festival retrospective.” The Brandeis Arts Council provided him a grant to develop the project, which allowed him to invite musicologists with an expertise in Fauré for the kickoff Saturday event.
Carlo Caballero, a music professor and Erma Mantey Faculty Fellow at the University of Colorado, Boulder, expanded on Fauré’s significance in a written piece included in the Festival program. He said that in a conference he attended last year, “I discovered with pleasure and excitement that discourse around Fauré’s music has expanded and greatly diversified. He added, “[We]are in the first stages of imagining a spacious structure in which to explore his 64 years of creative work, one whose rooms may be surprisingly diverse and perhaps in some respects unfinished.” According to Caballero, part of the reason Fauré has been historically overlooked in scholarship is because he “avoided direct alliance” with major artistic trends.
The concert featured three musical pieces. The first was one Fauré composed in 1924 and featured the Lydian Quartet seated in an intimate semi-circle on the stage. It was divided into three parts: “Allegro Moderato,” “Andante” and “Allego.”
For the second number, the Quartet was joined by three other musicians, mezzo soprano Lynn Torgove, pianist Donald Berman and double bassist Kate Foss. The piece was called “La Bonne Chanson,” or “The Maid Song,” in English. Of the three pieces of the night, this one constituted the earliest of Fauré’s works — it was published in 1864.
The piece was based on the poetry by 19th century French poet Paul Verlaine. The songs were performed by Torgove in French, but audience programs included English translations.
Torgove’s lucid vocals permeated the room, and although the language was foreign to most of the audience, the emotion of her voice told a story in itself. “La Bonne Chanson” was divided into nine different poems with music for each. Some, such as “Jai Presque peur, en vérité,” or “I almost fear, in truth be said,” evoked a kind of urgency because of its speed, while others had a more delicate, slower mood.
After a brief intermission, the Lydian Quartet took the stage once again, this time joined by pianist Ya-Fei Chuang, for “Quintet No. 2 in C minor.” Much like the opening number, this piece also had distinct sections: “Allegro moderato,” “Allegro vivo,” “Andante moderato” and “Allegro molto.”
Stepner said that typically, the group takes at least three weeks to rehearse a piece but that in this case, they did not need to devote as much time to the leading and concluding pieces because they have performed them on past occasions.
In addition to the concert, the Fauré Festival included three talks with Fauré experts and a concert with the Brandeis-Wellesley Orchestra and Brandeis Chamber Choir on Saturday.