Chamber's Tresemble mixes it up
By Ruth Bingham
Special to The Advertiser
By Ruth Bingham
One of the great joys of chamber music is its variety of textures and timbres.
Chamber Music Hawaii consists of fairly standard ensembles — the Galliard String Quartet, the Honolulu Brass Quintet and the Spring Wind Quintet — but also includes Tresemble, which draws on musicians from all three groups (plus guests) to present ever-changing combinations of instruments.
At Tresemble's concert on Monday (repeating next week at the Doris Duke Theatre), change turned out to be the only constant: The program opened with a brass sextet, proceeded to an unusual quartet of two clarinets and two horns, and ended with very different octets. Works ranged from Palestrina in the 16th century to Stravinsky in the 20th, requiring 15 musicians on seven different instruments.
Amidst the variety, affinities emerged, presaged in the program's title: "(genius) x 8."
In short, Tresemble's heart lay in the octets, composed by two of music's greatest geniuses: Mozart's four-movement Serenade, K. 388, and Stravinsky's incomparable Octet for Wind Instruments. The other works, while enjoyable, paled in comparison.
The Haydn, a very early work consisting of five tiny movements for clarinets and horns, proved to be quite literally a Divertimento, a curious little diversion among more significant works.
The two works by Palestrina, both arrangements for brass sextet, sounded serenely consonant in our modern context, but it is music driven by dissonances, its complexity and meaning woven into linearity and nuances of phrasing.
Tresemble played well in the first three works, but seemed to come alive in the Stravinsky Octet, suddenly more focused, engaged, and with an opinion to share. One of the finest chamber works ever composed, Stravinsky's Octet challenged the ensemble, eliciting strong playing throughout — by individuals and as an ensemble.
Monday's crowning glory, however, was clearly the Mozart Serenade, composed only 21 years after the Haydn chronologically speaking, but lifetimes later stylistically. Mozart's "simple" is only an outward aspect; internally, the music is astonishingly complex.
Tresemble's musicians seemed to understand Mozart viscerally, playing with an easy familiarity and intuitive cohesiveness. Throughout, they captured Mozart's passionate outbursts, pastoral ariettas, sweet tragedies, and finally, his typical happy ending — to the piece, to the concert, to CMH's season.
Like Mozart, Tresemble left the audience wanting to hear more.