Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Concert for "Autism Speaks" in Alexandria, VA plays Mendelssohn Octet for Strings

On Tuesday, May 5, 2009, The Episcopal High School in Alexandria VA held a benefit concert for Autism Speaks.

The program started with a brief video “Autism Speaks: It’s Time to Listen”, giving the facts about autism. In 1994, doctors believed that one in every 2500 children was autistic. Now it is one in every 150, and one in 94 boys. I am not sure if this statistic includes Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a milder “disorder” affecting social development and sometimes is very mild.

The concert comprised one work, the Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, by Felix Mendelssohn. The performing ensemble was The National Chamber Players.

The violinists were Nurit Bar-Josef, Teri Hopkins Lee, Heather LeDoux Green, Jan Chong; the cellists were James Lee and Mark Evans; viola was manned by Daniel Foster and Maholo Eguchi.

The work is large, with the first movement (Allegro moderato, ma con fuoco) including a repeat and extensive development. It could have been inspired by Franz Schubert’s most ambitious chamber works (like another Octet) but it lacks the tempo changes and abrupt dissonances. The “slow” movement (Andante), in minor, is a “Song without Words” and is more like an Allegretto (following the concept in Beethoven’s Seventh and Schubert’s Great Symphong). The scherzo is the most familiar movement, and the finale offers a hectic fugue.

My favorite Mendessohn is the Scotch Symphony (the majestic close) and the fugal conclusion to the lively C Minor (#1).

The High School’s website for the concert is here.

Visitors will want to look at the impressive map of the photographic campus, here. The school, generally quiet and not often in the public eye, appears to be residential, with resident faculty, and looks like a college campus. Students from the school (perhaps those associated with music) assisted in ushering the concert and in preparing the reception and processing donations.

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