Maybe my favorite thing about living in Logan is our Chamber Music Series, and the fact that we have an in-house string quartet, the Fry Street Quartet. We heard them play last Tuesday, and on the program were Beethoven, Dohnanyi, and Tchaikovsky. Our 9-year-old son joined us, since he loves classical music and is a considerable musician in his own right, and I am proud to say he was a more respectful audience member than most of the others around us who were twice his age. Behind us on the right was a crew dedicated (I’m guessing) to various paper-crinkling projects, and on the left were several couples who really needed to keep conversations going.
Maybe it was because I was distracted (crinkle crinkle, whispywhispywhispy), but I thought the Fry’s performance of Beethoven’s 18.3 was uneven. The first movement seemed dry, and the second way too sluggish. But the third movement snapped into place perfectly (crinkle), and the finishing presto was electric (whispywhispy). I hadn’t heard of Ernst von Dohnanyi, though I gather Bartok was the only Hungarian composer more famous than he. We heard a 5-movement serenade in C major, which starts and finishes with a march that (crinkle, crinkle) I found less than interesting, but in between are three movements (whispy) that are very intriguing: one very dreamy, one like laughter, and one (crinkle whispy) I liked but can’t remember now. The final piece, a sextet in D minor by Tchaikovsky, was absolutely brilliant, and brilliantly performed by the quartet plus two. We all know Tchaikovsky can write sweet tunes, but his chamber music really show the depth of his genius.
The very next night was a double-barreled concert by the Clinch Mountain Boys (led by Ralph Stanley) and the Blind Boys of Alabama. I have to confess that I’ve never been a fan of bluegrass music (apart from an embarrassing enthusiasm in 5th grade), and I had never even heard of Ralph Stanley, which I gather is an inexcusable ignorance. Well, I still am no fan of bluegrass music, but those guys could really fiddle and pick a banjo, I must admit. And the hall was full of people who really liked that kind of thing, so it was fun to observe all the hooting and hollering, yee-haw. The Blind Boys confirmed my own racist prejudice that African-American culture is superior to every Anglo culture of which I am familiar, and their show (though, yes, I know, a bit contrived) gave powerful expression to the voice of suffering and hope embedded in that strain of Christianity. I respect anything born on the other side of suffering.