The 2021 Fall Chamber Series continues at 2 p.m. ET, Sunday, Oct. 24, featuring strings and piano. The performance, coordinated by Violinist Staff Sgt. Ryo Usami, will stream live online and take place in John Philip Sousa Band Hall at the Marine Barracks Annex in southeast Washington, D.C. This is a free, non-ticketed event. If attending in person, please note that seating will be limited and masks and COVID vaccination are required at all concerts.
This concert will feature just strings and piano, and the theme centers around German pieces and composers that may have been overlooked in their lifetime. In programming the concert, Usami selected works that are not performed regularly: Max Bruch’s String Octet in B-flat; Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s String Quartet in E-flat; Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Opus 22; and Felix Mendelssohn’s Sextet in D, Opus 110, MWV Q 16.
The concert begins with Max Bruch’s String Octet in B-flat, a piece that has become meaningful to Usami:
"I had never heard of the Bruch Octet and it turned out to be a wonderful piece,” Usami said. “I think it should be in the conversation for best octet! It was the composer’s final composition, having completed it only a few months before his death at the age of 82. To me, this piece epitomizes Bruch’s life as a composer. The first movement starts with individual notes building on top of each other, like a sunrise, which then leads into a very lyrical melody that spirals into the remainder of the movement. This is Bruch commencing his musical journey with optimism where one idea turns into another and continues on. The second movement is said to be a requiem for his late wife and for the recently war-defeated Germany. The opening of this movement is in a very dark, tragic E-flat minor key, but the end is in the complete opposite key of E-flat major. Additionally, it concludes with a plagal cadence, which is also known as the ‘Amen cadence’ because of its frequent setting to the text ‘Amen’ in hymns. This movement is Bruch facing his struggles in life but eventually overcoming the pain and tragedies and coming to terms with it. The final movement is in a heroic E-flat major key with fast repeated notes as well as a beautiful lyrical section. This movement is Bruch realizing the fun and beauty he has had during his experiences. I really enjoy how this piece has told me a story that we can all relate to: we start with optimism, then face adversity, then come to a realization that it’s all about the experience."
The concert continues with two compositions by women. Clara Schumann, Robert Schumann’s wife, had a prominent career as a pianist and she was also a talented composer.
“Her composition Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Opus 22 is a piece I heard a friend perform and I was really moved by that performance,” Usami said.
“Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel faced criticism as a female musician and composer from a high class family, and her String Quartet in E-flat was not published until after her death. It has beautiful harmonies and characters that contrast her famous brother Felix’s style of composition."
The concert concludes with Felix Mendelssohn's Sextet in D, Opus 110, MWV Q 16. He enjoyed a career as a composer, pianist, violinist and conductor, but this piano sextet was not published until after his death even though it was composed when he was just 15 years old.
When asked what he would like the audience to take away from this concert, Usami said: “I would like for the audience to go home excited and inspired after hearing these lesser known pieces by composers they may not have known about. I think this is the perfect program for us to work back toward ‘normal’ and regain youthful energy.”
The concert is free and open to the public. The Marine Barracks Annex is located at 1053 7th St. SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. Free parking is also available under the overpass on 7th Street, across from the Annex. Please allow extra time for I.D. checks at the gate. Mask, vaccination and social distancing required.
Program & Notes