Review: The Universal Language of Romantic Composers

“The Universal Language of Romantic Composers” kicked off Spotlight Concert Series in Piccolo Spoleto Festival on May 23. Consisting of three pieces composed by Schubert, Myaskovsky and Fauré, the one-hour concert was performed by two pairs of couples: local artists Micah Gangwer (violin) and Rachel Gangwer (viola), along with James Waldo (cello) and Alyona Aksyonova (piano) who are based in New York City.

These three works by Austrian, Russian and French composers vary in style from one to the other, even though they are under the same general genre of “romanticism.”

Although it is an unfinished composition, “String Trio in B-flat Major, D. 471” shows Schubert’s sense in mastering the romantic style. Written at the age of nineteen, the String Trio stands out with a delightful gorgeous atmosphere. If must be compared to something, it tastes like sparkling lemonade. This piece breathes energy, and actually, as we were so close to the musicians, their breath could be heard during the performance, all at the same time between rhythms.

Myaskovsky’s “Sonata for cello and piano No.2 in a minor, Op. 81” was finished in 1948, near the end of the composer’s life. It is highly emotional at a time when romanticism was out of fashion. Facing with all sorts of problems, Russia was trying to recover from the trauma of World War II. Sorrowful and heavy, the first movement is filled with deep mutters and outpourings. And then, in the following two movements, power comes in. Waldo’s cello and Aksyonova’s piano led alternately, and accompanied each other. The couple was featured in Piccolo Spoleto last year, performing the “Rachmaninoff Sonata for cello and piano.”

Waldo introduced Fauré’s “Piano Quartet No.2 in g minor, Op.45” and called it a roller-coaster with conversation of strings and the piano. He said there are too many melodies to track. He also described it as dramatic romanticism, cool and colorful. The performers changed smiles and obviously enjoyed playing together. Piano became more and more prominent during this period and the combination with strings made a beautiful ending to the program.

14 chamber music concerts will be presented in Spotlight Concert Series through Friday, June 6. See the completed schedule at

Insher Pan is a Goldring Arts journalist from Syracuse University.