On Sunday afternoon, the North Georgia Chamber Music Festival presented the second of its four concerts for 2013 in Hoag Auditorium at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. If that name sounds unfamiliar, it’s because it was known as North Georgia College & State University until January, when it was consolidated with Gainesville State College by the Georgia Board of Regents.
The festival, now in its second year, was founded by its artistic director, Cecylia Arzewski, a former concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Arzewski now lives in Dahlonega, devoting her time to teaching, performance and recording projects.
This concert and the previous evening’s opening concert were originally scheduled for the 150-seat Gloria Shott Performance Hall at the university’s Nix Mountain Cultural Center. But as luck would have it, the climate control systems had not been working for a couple of weeks and left the indoor temperature at levels that would make a West Texan uncomfortable. So the concerts were moved to Hoag Auditorium, which has about double the capacity of the more intimate Shott Hall.
Hoag is a multipurpose auditorium, with a curtained proscenium and an extended thrust area in front. The producers of the concert did the right thing when they placed the musicians near the front of the thrust with acoustical shells close behind them. While a bit more bloom to the sound overall would have been preferred, this did not have a negative effect on the first piece on Sunday’s program, Zoltán Kodály’s Duo, Op. 7, for violin and cello, performed by violinist David Coucheron and cellist Daniel Laufer, both prominent ASO performers.
With Kodaly’s Duo, what the audience got from the hall, in exchange for the absence of acoustical bloom, was clarity and immediacy of sound, of which the musicians and the music took best advantage. Even six rows back, the musicians seemed only a couple of feet away, vibrant and detailed in execution and expression. It was a thoroughly engaged performance that alone was worth the price of admission.
The second half of the program was Franz Schubert’s final work for chamber ensemble, the String Quintet in C major, composed only two months before his death in 1828. It’s the most famous of string quintets to make use of two cellos rather than two violas, the latter the more common practice of the day, pioneered by Mozart.
For this work, Coucheron and Laufer were joined by violinist Justin Bruns, violist Yang-Yoon Kim, both from the ASO, and cellist Charae Krueger, an artist-in-residence on the Kennesaw State University music faculty who also performs with the orchestras of the Atlanta Opera and Atlanta Ballet. While the Schubert did not have the electrifying sizzle of the Kodaly duo, it was nonetheless an enjoyable performance. It is a piece that, by its nature, could have benefited from a wetter acoustic. Despite that, the musicians brought due Schubertian character to the performance: the outer movements with clean if moderate vigor, the Adagio sublime with its contrast of ethereal and intense, the Scherzo happily rustic without rushing. Though hardly daring, it was an amiable rendering.
Two concerts remain in the festival, but neither will take place in Dahlonega. This Saturday, June 22, at 8 p.m. at the Ed Cabell Theatre in Gainesville, Krueger will join violinist Helen Hwaya Kim and pianist William Ransom to perform Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4 (“Dumky”) and Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 — two favorites that seem almost destined to be drawn to each other like magnets in programming of works for piano trio.
The final concert will take place the following afternoon, Sunday, June 23, at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Cumming. Sibling violin and piano duo David and Julie Coucheron will perform sonatas by Beethoven and Grieg, the “Carmen Fantasie” by Franz Waxman (famous for film scores such as “The Bride of Frankenstein” and “Rear Window”) and the Suite in A minor by the infrequently heard Norwegian composer Christian Sinding.