2014 Pulitzer Prize Winner

A “Haus” by any other name

Published: May 15, 2014, 2:56 pm, by David Sckolnik

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(Finally able to collect and post my impressions of this April 28 event)

A dinner date with Brahms and Mozart. And boy… do they know how to have a good time.

This is what Hausmusik is all about. The 23-year-old organization has had to slightly alter their concept in recent times. But the idea is inspired by the historic roots of chamber music.

This style of music, scored for a minimal amount of instruments with one player to a part, was once the bread and butter of classical composers. Before the age of recorded music, family and friends would gather together and make music in their homes. When this music for the“chamber” was too difficult for amateur musicians to realize, it then became the domain of the connoisseur. The advent of the gramophone brought these often brilliant pieces of music back to the masses.

What a treat to hear this style of expression in a living room environment after a tasty dinner a few glasses of good wine… like they did way back in the 1830s.

For over two decades this is what Hausmusik (German for“music at home”) was able to do. Anchored by a string quartet forged from members of the Colorado Springs Symphony/Philharmonic, they would move from house to house over a season providing a precious and intimate musical experience while laying seed for unique social interaction between their attendees.

It was a ton of work for the board. Home sites became harder to find. Everyone was exhausted.

The solution: a permanent home… although it’s no home at all. It is beautifully remodeled space in downtown’s Grace Episcopal Church.

We were greeted by bottomless glasses of an easily drinkable Chardonnay followed by a tasty, if a bit carbo-rich, buffet provided by Garden of the Gods Gourmet.

It was a great opportunity the get to know or to be reacquainted with one’s tablemates. Asked to bring along our glasses, if more wine sounded appealing, we were directed up a staircase at the end of the hall to the “concert hall.”

This was actually a large loft that looked down on the space below. In keeping with the informality of the experience, I was hoping that the musicians would have greeted us already in place to play. This was rather a standard concert experience as the Hausmusik Quartet came in together from the back greeted by our applause.

Three of the four players are currently on the philharmonic’s roster: Rebecca Lee (principal second violinist for the orchestra); violinist Jacob Klock (just announced as a new permanent addition to the quartet); and violist Sarah Richardson. Former philharmonic cellist Jennifer Yopp rounds out the ensemble.

 

Finally, a true main course- Mozart’s celebrated “String Quartet, K. 378,” the first of his six quartets dedicated to the master innovator of the form Franz Joseph Haydn.

The positives and negatives of the space were very apparent. The sound was rich, bold and loud – the large size and hard surfaces of the environment saw to that. Being so close to players the sound, like the dinner before, was a bit heavy on the “carbs.” The acoustics made it difficult for the quartet to bring the sound down to capture the intimate moments of the score. The performance itself was engagingly spirited lacking only a bit of polish and refinement.

The Brahms was better.

Reinforcements were brought in- violist Lora Stevens (a former member of the philharmonic) and cellist Jeffrey Watson (the current principal of the orchestra). The sound produced for the “Sextet, Op. 18.” was almost symphonic.

The first two movements of this piece are some of the best chamber music the German Romantic ever composed. The ensemble captured the brooding beauty of the opening and patiently unfolded the following theme and variations. It was sublime.

The musical intensity eases up from there and the sextet brought us down for a soft and entertaining landing.

Cookies, coffee and conversation awaited upon our descent.

(Visit www.coloradohausmusik.com for more information and to find out about next season’s events)