The Winnipeg Chamber Music Society performed this past Sunday, and our freelance contributor Sarah Krahn was there.

The Winnipeg Chamber Music Society celebrates both Beethoven and the privilege of performing amongst friends

This last Sunday, January 18, the city’s renowned Chamber Music Society presented the latest installment of their multi-season Beethoven Quartet Project with Op. 135, as well as works by Franz Schubert.

 The WCMS began The Beethoven Quartet Project back in 2003, but the members of the Clearwater Quartet – Gwen Hoebig, violin; Karl Stobbe, violin; Daniel Scholz, viola; Yuri Hooker, cello - have only been playing together for about five years. They began playing together in 2009, at the time the WCMS performed the first installment of Beethoven’s late quartets. With Op. 135, The Clearwater Quartet has performed all of Beethoven’s late quartets, with the exception of the Grosse Fuge, Op. 133.

“It is an honor to play this music,” says Yuri Hooker, who is also the principle cellist for the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra. In his opening comments, WCMS artistic director David Moroz described Op. 135 as distinctly “monumental”, and wonderfully conversational. This particular quartet shows off the multi-dimensional aspects of Beethoven’s work, revealing that the composer notorious for his of doom and gloom style could also write music that was both beautiful and light-hearted.

The time-honored repertoire is not the only reason Winnipeg’s best chamber musicians enjoy playing together. The members of the Winnipeg Chamber Music Society enjoy performing with one another just about as much as their audiences enjoy listening to them. Over the years, the relationships between members of the Clearwater Quartet have formed into life-long friendships. It has significantly enriched their experience playing in the ensemble.  “It is one of our most favourite things to do – to sit down and make music together,” says Gwen Hoebig, first violinist, “it’s a wonderfully life-affirming experience.”

The profound connection that the quartet shares both as musicians and friends resonates strongly in their performance. The music is visibly communicated between members, enigmatically expressed in their body language and facial expressions. At dramatic turns, the musicians take on aggressive gestures mirroring one another’s stern faces. As the music spins into comic passages, for example, right after the severe opening motives of the final fourth movement of Op. 135, the quartet-members exchange more flippant and light-hearted glances. The experience of watching the Clearwater Quartet is just about as enjoyable as listening to them.

The WCMS typically includes solo piano works in the programs for The Beethoven Quartet Project. David Moroz gave a lyrical performance of Schubert’s Four Impromptus, Op. 142, which are among the composer’s best known piano pieces. Moroz has a relaxed, rhythmic style of playing that achieves both precision as well as an improvisatory edge. His style is perfect for the impromptu composition, which is of a “lighter spirit” aiming to capture the “spur of the moment”, while also requiring technical expertise.  Moroz’s interpretation of Schubert’s impromptus highlighted the subtle and elegant qualities within the music. While the subdued qualities of Schubert’s music contributed to his lack of success during the 19th century, today they are a big reason his music has just as much appeal as those canonical giants like Mr. Beethoven.

This Sunday marked the third concert of the WCMS’s twenty-eighth season. Upcoming programs include the trios of Mozart and Brahms, as well as works by Fauré, Dvorak, and Haydn!

Sarah Krahn is a freelance contributor for Classic107. When she is not covering events for us, she is a full time music student at CMU.