KSO Q Series: Listening to music the old way

Harold DuckettArts 865, Feature

At noon, on certain Wednesdays at the Square Room on Market Square, the Knoxville Symphony’s Woodwind Quintet and Principal Quartet, classical music in Knoxville reflects a pattern that goes back 300 years — the social occasion of eating while listening to live music performance.

It’s a custom that virtually died out since concert halls replaced parlors and ballrooms in the palaces and private homes of aristocrats and the wealthy in the early 19th century.

The Q Series offers concert-goers a buffet lunch, prepared by Café 4, and an hour’s intimately presented chamber music. Most of the concerts in the series over the last two years are near sell-outs.

The concert programs primarily feature music specifically for woodwind quintet and string quartet.

The April concert changed that pattern by featuring solos, duets, trios and a quintet composed of strings and clarinet.

KSO principal flute Hannah Hammel began the program with Helen Grime’s “Arachne,” for solo oboe. It’s a musical telling of the story of Arachne, a mortal weaver whose work is so flawless that goddess Minerva is outraged to the point of beating Arachne. That, in turn, demoralizes Arachne. Minerva takes pity and turns Arachne into a spider.

Then an unusual duet of flute and bassoon, played by Aaron Apaza and Hannah Hammel, gave an intriguing performance Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras No. 6, arranged for Flute and Bassoon. Villa-Lobos wrote a whole bunch of these rhythmic pieces for different instrument groups, at least one for wordless voice.

Violist Kathryn Gawne, bassist Steve Benne and hornist Jeffery Whaley.


Michael Haydn, younger brother of Joseph Haydn, wrote another interesting work for an uncommon instrument combination. This time a trio for viola, bass and horn, played by Kathryn Gawne, Steve Benne and Jeffery Whaley.

Finally, an early 19th century quintet by Carl Maria von Weber, written for string quartet and clarinet, played by the principal quartet of violinists Gordon Tsai and Edward Pulgar, violist Kathryn Gawne and cellist Andy Bryenton, with Gary Sperl expertly playing the difficulty clarinet part.

Music such as these very interesting pieces, played by gifted musicians, is seldom heard outside of small chamber music settings.

Getting to enjoy food at the same time makes occasions such as the Q Series very special.

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