BENNETT: Cassatt made the day at Sunday show - Odessa American: Entertainment

BENNETT: Cassatt made the day at Sunday show

BY RONALD BENNETT | Posted: Monday, November 28, 2011 12:00 am

Last Sunday afternoon the Cassatt String Quartet performed at the Mason Hall of the Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center.

This was the event that concluded their fifth residency with the Ector County Independent School District. They had worked with and presented student concerts throughout the week and now it was time to hear Muneko Otani and Odessa’s own Jennifer Leshnower, violins, Liuh-Wen Ting, viola and Nicole Johnson, cello, in a concert that included a newly commissioned work from composer Dan Welcher as well as works by Beethoven and Dvorak.

Joining them was James Dick, the founder of Festival Hill at Round Top and a noted pianist.

The program started with the world premiere of Welcher’s “Scherzo for Piano Quintet (2011).”

This work was an accessible contemporary work that deftly wove the quartet passages with the chromatic and fluent piano part reflecting the fact that the composer had known and worked with Mr. Dick for a long time and used some family references with subtle charm.

Mr. Welcher was in attendance and was introduced. He had also been commissioned to write a piece that was premiered on the student concert.

Beethoven’s “Quartet in C Sharp minor, Op. 131, was written after the composer had become completely deaf, so that he never actually heard it played.

The seven movements are prime examples of the episodic and profound music that marks Beethoven’s late period. The quartet was inspiring in that here the audience was able to see and hear what a seasoned quartet can produce after years of being together. It was a joy to watch their rapport as well as to hear the balanced and unified sounds they produced.

The “Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81” comprised the second half of the program. This monumental work challenged the performers to be at their very best as they created the rich and colorful sounds required to bring this work to life. The four movements reflected the composer’s penchant for folk like melodies while exploring the depths of sound that can be produced by the combination of the five instruments.

It was the crown jewel of the week’s events. This was another important concert in this month of inaugural concerts at the new center. It was also impressive that a concert by the UTPB Philharmonic Orchestra was being held in the adjoining room and no one was aware of it. This again speaks well of how well planned the center was in its construction.

The Cassatt Quartet continues to prove how a fine quartet can emerge into being a premier quartet.

It was truly a regal concert.