Transcendence is not typically promised of an evening at the Toledo Club, lovely, cultured place though it is. Still, transcendence exactly sums up the effect of the auspicious opening concert of the Blade Chamber Series Sunday night in the venerable downtown landmark.
As the final celestial harmonics of Olivier Messiaen's masterpiece, "Quartet for the End of Time," faded into the grandeur of the main club room, there was silence, then a sigh, before the applause and bravos. Silence seemed more apt a recognition for the virtuosic yet perfectly attuned performances of violinist Merwin Siu, cellist Robert Clemens, clarinetist Georg Klaas, and pianist Stefan Kasch.
Filled with Messiaenic standards such as trilling bird calls, swooping glissandos, startling chord progressions, and hauntingly simple melodies, the seven-part work stays true to the esoteric spirituality that inspired the devout Roman Catholic.
That the French composer could conjure such unearthly beauty amidst the depredations of a Nazi prison camp is one great gift of 20th century music. Sunday's performance honored the sensibility of that transcendent vision, melding the mastery of four players into an extraordinary musical experience. So intense, so well integrated were the performances that the audience remained enrapt throughout the 45-minute work.
The program designed to honor those loved and lost began with a fresh voice, Gideon Klein, a Czech composer who succumbed at age 26 to Nazi "hospitality." Young and gifted, Klein borrowed from composers of his time and place yet achieved a distinctive sound and effect in his String Trio. Performed with great heart and facility by violinist Rita Lammers, violist Ellen Craig Archambeau, and cellist Renee Goubeaux, the three-movement work made a moving statement about the loss of talent war inevitably leaves in its wake.
Samuel Barber's String Quartet Op. 11, with its iconic Adagio movement, received caring and competent treatment by violinists Kirk Toth and Naomi Guy, violist Valentin Ragusitu, and cellist Martha Reikow. How delicious to hear the good bones of that labyrinthine Adagio brought out by musicians who found the dark beauty of the work without slipping into sentimentality.
The next concert in the Blade Chamber Series is Jan. 14.
Contact Sally Vallongo at: firstname.lastname@example.org