On Saturday, October 8, at Christ Lutheran Church in Aptos, The Santa Cruz Chamber Players presented a “A Chest of Treasures, Lesser Known Gems of the Great Composers,” sponsored by Rowland and Pat Rebele. Actually the title should have continued by adding: performed by four gems and musical gems they were! The soloists were Roy Malan, Concert Director and violin; Susan Freier Harrison, violin; Polly Malan, viola; Stephen Harrison, cello and Keisuke Nakagoshi, piano. All four of the master musicians come fully equipped with accolades and letters of grand distinction. Roy Malan’s 40-year tenure as first chair of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra most certainly sets a Guinness Book record. Perusing his accomplishments, this is but the proverbial “tip of the iceberg.”
Polly Malan was the principal violist of the San Francisco’s Western Opera Theatre, the Spoleto Opera and many other significant ensembles. Susan Freier formed the renowned Chester String Quartet and later joined the Stanford String Quartet. She has performed in numerous important musical ensembles with great distinction. Pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi has performed in many of the most prestigious venues in the USA. Mr. Nakagoshi is the current pianist-in-residence at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the award winning Opera Parallele. He and Swiss pianist Eva-Maria Zimmermann formed the ZOFO piano duet that in 2013 was nominated for a Grammy Award in the best Chamber/Small Chamber Ensemble category.
The quartet performed a highly polished, highly professional concert featuring Lullaby for String Quartet by George Gershwin (1898-1937); Terzetto for two violins and viola, Op. 74 by Antonin Dvorak (1841-1904); and Trio elegiaque in D Minor, Op. 9 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943).
A last minute program change offered Gershwin’s Lullaby for String Quartet that opened with a beautiful, seductive cello solo. The cello pizzicato was an even more impressive serving as the foundation for the rich textures produced by the violin and viola. The work began as a counterpoint “class assignment” and in this writer’s opinion finished as one of Gershwin’s most outstanding musical compositions!
Dvorák’s Terzetto was performed in “true” trio/quartet style, in which the performers stood and performed wonderfully created textures that in sound alluded to a much larger ensemble. Fine balance, adherence to contrasting dynamics, necessary eye contact demonstrated the trio’s musicianship and professionalism. In the second movement designated piu sostenuto (more sustained) the viola’s pizzicato accented the top two voices and created a memorable musical moment.
Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque opened with a somber, mournful melody performed with insight and understanding by pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi that served as the static element for the soul-searching melodic entrance of violinist Roy Malan and cellist Stephen Harrison. The trio culminated with an accelerando and crescendo before fading to a brief piano solo with accented cello pizzicati and staccato chords performed by pianist Nakagoshi. During the entire concert the overall balance was lush and created wonderful moments of rich musical textures in which their virtuosity enhanced the music. There was no escaping the Rachmaninoff DNA that permeated the three movements of the Trio. This was a musical experience that is not to be missed next time around!