At 3 p.m. Sunday in Roshong Recital Hall at Fort Lewis College, a program of chamber music will be performed by three faculty members plus one.
Titled “Piano Quartets of the Masters: Mozart, Mahler and Dvorak,” the program is clear, but it raises questions.
Why not The Red Shoe Piano and guest artist violist Margaret Miller? What has happened to the only professional instrumental chamber ensemble in town? Looks like a trio, walks like a trio, plays like a trio plus one.
Two longstanding members of the FLC faculty trio, pianist Lisa Campi Walters and cellist Katherine Jetter, are pictured with adjunct music professor violinist Brandon Christensen and guest violist Margaret Miller.
Christensen is an accomplished musician who has moved to Durango. He has performed as a soloist and ensemble member in recital series over the last year. He also performs with the San Juan Symphony. Miller is an assistant professor at Colorado State University. The addition of the amber-toned viola to the trio makes it a quartet and opens up the possibility of playing at least one rarely heard work.
Jetter and Campi Walters have anchored The Red Shoe Piano through many changes. After violinist Richard Strawn retired from FLC almost 20 years ago, his replacements have included stellar musicians, and all have served as concertmaster of the San Juan Symphony. In 2005-6, FLC hired Mikylah Myers McTeer. She encouraged the Trio to play classics and introduce new works, like Gweneth Walker’s “Ladders to the Sky.” When Myers McTeer left for another academic posting, she was followed by Kasia Sokol, Nathan Lambert and M. Brent Williams.
“Last summer, Brent moved to Kansas,” Jetter said. “It was a late departure for the college, but it turned out to be an ideal situation for the college and for Brandon (Christensen). He is extremely talented and experienced as both a performer and teacher.”
Originally, the quartet recital consisting of The Red Shoe Trio plus one had been planned for last spring, Jetter said.
“Margaret (Miller) was initially going to perform with us as part of the Artist in Residence program. The recital was postponed, as I was still in a cast with a broken wrist.”
Jetter resubmitted the proposal to A.I.R., which augments the FLC music department by supporting guest artists who perform and offer master classes. Miller will teach master classes on Friday and will appear with the trio on Sunday.
“The recital is unique,” Jetter said. “Piano quartets are far less common than either string quartets or piano trios. The richness of the middle voice of the viola truly expands the sound of the strings when performing with piano.”
Two well-known works, Mozart’s first piano quartet, 1784, and Dvorak’s E-flat work from his mature period, 1889, will bookend a lesser-known piece. Mahler’s Piano Quartet, 1876, was written while he was a student at the Vienna Conservatory. Odd as it may seem, the work disappeared and was not performed until 1964 in New York. It is only one movement, and it is likely to inspire an informed introduction by one of the players.
One question remains: Is the FLC Red Shoe Piano Trio alive and functioning, in limbo or in another transition?
“I believe everything is on hold in terms of the college position and a permanent member of the trio,” Christensen said in an interview. “I’ve been asked to fill in at FLC for this academic year while the department waits for authorization to advertise a full-time violin position. Since Brent was unable to be back for this September project, he and Katherine asked me to play in his stead, which I’m very pleased and honored to do.”
Ticket prices for A.I.R.-sponsored recitals have not changed. Adults are $15, children $5, cash or check at the door. FLC students with ID are always free.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theatre Critics Association.