A Madison staple on Friday afternoons is the Noon Musicales at The First Unitarian Society. This past Friday, I circled the parking lot several times and finally found a place to park. As I made my way through the doors of the Landmark Auditorium, I caught a glimpse of the performers eagerly awaiting the start of the concert. It was a good-sized crowd and I picked a seat in the back to sip on my Starbucks. The couple next to me was involved in a crossword puzzle and continued their game through the performance. You could tell this wasn’t their first rodeo.
The quintet entered and took their positions. First up was the Phantasy Quintet by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The Prelude began and the first thought that ran through my mind was, I have to find a recording of this and download it. Ina Georgieva ushered in the piece with a haunting sound that meandered beautifully through the hall. Not soon after, Wes Luke came in with such clear and precise expression that it seemed like the instrument was alive.
Cellist, Rachel Bottner, created an ethereal rhythm during the Scherzo. The deep expression from the Cello propelled all of us forward in the journey we had embarked on that afternoon. The emotion throughout the piece was as if they were one. I can only describe the connection as symbiotic. The group all had their individual roles, but told a tale that captured the hearts of everyone in the space. For a moment, I realized that I was experiencing a masterpiece inside a structure that was in itself, art.
As we rounded into the third & fourth movement, I felt as though Vaughan Williams was speaking to us from beyond the grave. The composer was still emotionally impacting us with his music and for a moment the piece made me forget the trivial aspects of my day.
Quintet No. 1 in F Major, Op. 88 by Brahms was performed during the second half. I had interviewed Violist, Marie Pauls a few weeks ago and she had described this piece as a “Bucket list piece.” Pauls did not disappoint. After the first movement, I felt like I should applaud. It was performed with such intensity and brilliance.
The Grave ed appassionato was so physical and full of lush passages. I couldn’t say that one performer stood out from the other, as this was a union of talent on a mission. With that said, Valerie Clare Sanders brought her “A” game. Her fierce handy work was exquisite. I felt like we were all riding on rails.
The motif during the third movement was thrown from musician to musician. Luke and Sanders would toss it over to Pauls and Georgieva. There is nothing like being at a live performance such as this. I’m an audiofile and my vinyl collection had nothing on this experience. The piece in its entirety left me wanting more, but also pleasantly spent. The performance ended in huge praise from the audience with many of us standing in high acclaim of what we witnessed.