The renowned Academy of St. Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra lends a small group of its players to audience members around the world this season through a chamber ensemble tour. The chamber ensemble is set to perform in Schwab Auditorium at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17, and the program includes work from Brahms and Mendelssohn, as well as the premiere of a new work by Sally Beamish.
Harvey De Souza, one of the ensemble’s violinists, explained what the performance will entail.
“At the concert in Pennsylvania, we’re doing two kinds [of performances, as] a sextet and an octet, so six and eight people,” De Souza said. “The wonderful thing about chamber music is that it historically is the most intimate of a composer’s writing. It’s a form of music making that we’re all part of, including the audience… Chamber music was originally performed in small rooms with friends and colleagues.
“...Added to that, the bonus is, almost all of the chamber music people wrote also happens to be some of the most incredible music those composers ever wrote. For example, the Brahms Sextet for Strings No. 2 in G Major, Op. 36, we’re playing is probably some of Brahms’ best writing, including his symphonies.”
The Sally Beamish string octet “Partita,” will be performed and was created particularly for the ensemble. Beamish is currently the organization’s composer in residence, but she has a long history with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, having played in the orchestra prior to her focus on composition.
“She’s written this wonderful piece with influence from Mendelssohn and Brahms and the type of music we’re playing, [but] it’s a very different take,” De Souza said.
He notes that writing for a string octet — which includes four violinists, two violists and two cellists — comes with its challenges and there aren’t many compositions in existence created specifically for full-fledged string octets.
“I think it’s a great piece and it will be interesting to see how audiences react to it,” De Souza said.
Considering seeing the performance, but not familiar with classical music? De Souza says there’s no prerequisite to enjoying the genre and, like all great art, classical music retains its popularity thanks to its continual emotional relevance.
“At any concert you go to, there is some connection to your life, there is a resonance to life, no matter when the music was written. I think that’s what great art does. It crosses all barriers and divides and time, because it’s all about human emotion,” he said. “No matter what your life might be or the continent you grew up on, we’re still human beings. We fall in love, we have great ambitions and desires, and care for our children, and all of this is there in the music. I feel very strongly that one doesn’t need to know every single detail about classical music [to enjoy it], because it’s a very visceral experience. You’re listening to music and you’re reacting to that.”
Tickets for the Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m. performance at Schwab Auditorium are $48 for adults, $15 for students and $38 for those under 18 years of age. Tickets are available online, by phone at 800-ARTS-TIX or at Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State Downtown Theatre Center and the Bryce Jordan Center.