Take Two: Chamber Music Recital Review



A small group of Butler University music faculty joined forces on Jan. 3 to put on a technically and emotionally diverse performance.

Professors Davis Brooks (violin) and Kate Boyd (piano) worked closely with Paul Bro (saxophone) and Kurt Fowler (cello) to present a dynamic collection of chamber works – both new and old.

The program began with two modern pieces by contemporary composers Hilary Tann and Asha Srinivasan.

These pieces challenged Kurt Fowler and Paul Bro in terms of technicality, requiring a succinct command of pitch and an adroit sense of musicality. It is not often that the winds and the strings get a chance to perform in such close proximity – and even less frequently does the saxophone get to perform with the string family.

In fact, the repertoire for saxophone and cello is so limited, that Fowler and Bro have personally worked to expand it.

Over the last sixteen years, they have commissioned works from new composers, simultaneously shedding light on new talent and expanding the repertoire that surrounds this unique instrumental combination.

After the impressive first half, Fowler joined Butler University professors Davis Brooks and Kate Boyd for music of a different color.

As Dr. Boyd said, by way of introduction: “And now for something completely different.” The Tchaikovsky Piano Trio in A Minor stands out in the repertoire, again for its uniqueness of instrumentation.

Although the Piano Trio is more commonly written for than the saxophone-cello duo, Tchaikovsky himself felt very uncomfortable writing in the genre, so the Piano Trio in A Minor happens to be the only Piano Trio he ever wrote.

The musicians handled the Trio with an impressive depth of emotion and sensitivity. Each voice played an equal role in creating a miniature symphonic sound.

Melodies were passed seamlessly from piano to violin to cello; each voice emerged and blended into the musical texture when necessary.

As was the case for the first half of the performance, musicianship and sensitivity stood out as qualifying characteristics of the performance.

In terms of understanding and sensitivity, Tuesday night’s performance stood out as a testament to musicianship; and it really showcased the range of emotion with which a classical musician must approach his or her craft.

The contemporary music that was played on the first half of the concert is vastly different from more traditional works by composers like Tchaikovsky.

In terms of tonality, rhythm, form, and musical content, the music could not be further apart; and yet both types of music fall under the same “classical” umbrella.

Therefore, the “classical” musician is tasked with performing it, and the Butler University faculty demonstrated their musical agility admirably.