Monterey Symphony Chamber players

Monterey Symphony Chamber Players — Zlata Grekov, Christina Mok, Chad Kaltinger, Robin Bonnell, Beth Zare & Caitlyn Smith-Franklin

Last night at All Saints’ Church in Carmel, the Monterey Symphony Chamber Players treated us to a wonderfully varied and festive program that gave us the feeling the Holidays had truly arrived. All Saints’ Church lends itself well to such an event, not only because of its superb acoustics, but also because of its naturally warm and spiritual ambiance.

At Monterey Symphony concerts, we are accustomed to hearing the musicians performing together as a large ensemble. On this occasion we heard six of the players, concertmaster Christina Mok, violinist Zlata Grekov, violist Chad Kaltinger, cellist Robin Bonnell, and hornists Caitlyn Smith-Franklin and Beth Zare, stepping into the limelight to entertain and uplift us with music of a more intimate nature.

Monterey Symphony Executive Director Nicola Samra, and her multi-talented husband, Dr. Todd Samra, were on hand to greet the audience and provide a brief commentary on the works we were about to hear. In an intermission conversation with Board President, Lee Rosen, I learned that the selection of music for the program was thanks to Christina Mok, who, as it turned out, has a real knack for intermixing works of a serious nature with works that entertain and amuse us.

Music’s more sober and serious side was represented by Mozart’s Divertimento in D Major, K. 136 (a very early, but totally charming work), Carl Stamitz’s Trio for Horn, Violin and Basso Continuo (actually in this performance the continuo part was cello only, without harpsichord) and Beethoven’s great Sextet for Horns and String Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 81b. Each of these works provided opportunities for us to hear the solid playing of the musicians, and we were impressed by the virtuosity and expressive skills of each player.

More unfamiliar works on the program were the charming Suite for Horn and String Quartet by Corrado Maria Saglietta (b.1957). I was totally blindsided by its wicked “Tango” movement, the lovely cadenza in its “Canzone” movement, and its whacky and surprising final movement with its special effects (thumping of instruments, and others I can’t quite remember). This is a work you wanted to hear again.

A really startling work was the selections from Charles-Auguste de Bériot’s  Duos caractéristiques “Spanish Airs” for Two violins. Christina Mok and Zlata Grekov blew us away with their fabulous playing. This was another work we wanted to hear again.

Now for the “fun” stuff — Christmas Carol Selections from the Hampton String Quartet’s “What if Mozart had written “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer?” What the musicians did with this silly tune in burying it and sprinkling it throughout more serious musical textures was a great deal of fun, and one more work on this satisfying program that you wanted to hear again.

Dr. Samra in his introductory remarks noted that Leroy Anderson in his immortal “Sleigh Ride” achieved a significant mixture of “cultivated” music that requires sophistication with music that has strong folk elements to be enjoyed by everybody, no matter their degree of sophistication. It is always good to hear this work during the Holidays, and on this occasion it was an especially satisfying performance.

It was gratifying to see All Saints’ Church packed to the gills with friends, fans and donors. This was a big audience and a very happy audience. After the concert the audience was invited downstairs to Seccombe Hall for a lovely post-concert reception.

As I said, with this concert I really felt the Holiday season had begun. Wow!



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