On Wednesday, Jan. 30, an audience in UNO’s recital hall witnessed a classical performance so sweet and full of light that it may as well have been transported directly to heaven. Musaica, a group founded in 2006 by musical masters and performers from the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, had come to UNO to share some of their prowess with an attentive audience of about 70 people. Admission was ticketless; the group asked only for donations.
The lights in the recital hall dimmed. After department chair Charles Taylor informed the audience that “this program they’re going to have tonight is wonderful,” Musaica entered and promptly began its first piece, “Angels in Flight.” A work written for violins, flute, cello and harp, it was created in 1987 by Marjan Mozetich (pronounced MAR-yon MOH-ze-teech). Mozetich is a musical scholar who was born to Slovenian parents and moved from Italy to Canada at four years old. The piece can easily be found on Youtube and elsewhere online for free.
The piece opens its first movement, “Arrival and Dialogue,” with a beautiful fluttering of the harp, then the strings wander their way in soothingly. The melody begins to “work its way up,” feeling like an ascent to heaven. This movement makes the way for the rest of the piece, and one feels he is about to be told a story. At the finish, all the voices come together and close toward silence.
In “Song to the Eternal,” a movement even gentler and smoother than the last, the music begins thoughtfully, with some quiet wavering from the cello that is eventually passed on to the clarinet. All the voices hum together, then blossom out romantically into an angelic pitch. This piece breathes life and light into every phrase.
“Departure” has the most melancholy sound, though its pace is similar. There is a lifting and trembling which is sparkly yet still sad. The whole piece features long stretches of arpeggios, this movement especially. During a beautiful moment of coalescence between the instruments, one is very strongly reminded of Philip Glass’ “Glassworks” from 1982. There is a revolving melody which spins slowly, closing peacefully at the finish.
This was a brilliant piece to play in the evening. It felt graceful, like a lullaby, with just enough life to keep one awake to hear more.
What better to follow this up with than the sweet stylings of Johannes Brahms? The layman may recognize Brahms by his most famous “Hungarian Dances,” which he wrote in 1869 and 1880 when he was about 36 and 47, respectively.
Musaica chose to play his Piano Quartet in A major, op. 26, a piece which premiered in 1863, and for which Brahms himself played the piano part. The other instruments in this quartet are the violin, viola and cello.
Everyone settled back into their seats after intermission. Due to a sudden switchboard outage, the recital hall lights went out completely, and the dark room chuckled uneasily. The musicians tuned their instruments while several music students worked to get the stage lights running again.
The piece was open, fresh and definitely in a major key. The first movement featured a warm, bright interplay between the pianist and the strings. If this movement felt like one was taking an active, solitary walk down a wooded path, the second movement felt like a gentle descent into slumber. It had a calm opening, with one line of melody leading beautifully into the next. The piece was so romantic that it was almost cheesy in some instants, but that helped it keep an energy which many other slow movements miss out on. It was well that Musaica chose to play this piece second, because it is difficult to top the sweet, elegant stylings of Brahms.
Musical Excursions is an ongoing series hosted by the music department, bringing live classical music from performers all over the world. Every performance is free to students and typically lasts about 2 hours with an intermission in the middle.
The recital hall will host the Weiss Kaplan Stumpf trio on Wednesday, Feb. 20, the Berlin Counterpoint on Thursday, March 21 and the Argento New Music Project on Wednesday, April 24.