Mercury is pairing two emotionally resonant, sweet-sounding works – Tchaikovsky’s homage to his idol Mozart and Edward Elgar’s sentimental early compositions – in a concert titled Strings Serenade, to be performed at University of Houston-Clear Lake’s Bayou Theater on April 19 at 7:30 p.m.
Mercury Concertmaster Jonathan Godfrey, who is one of Mercury’s founding members, said that the concert would start with the works of Elgar. “He wrote it early in his life, and it’s beautiful and very haunting, especially the second movement,” Godfrey said. “It’s very poignant, and it’s a chance to emote this way with strings. Then, afterward, there are three short pieces, each featuring a soloist.”
These three pieces, Godfrey said, are “character pieces in their own right. They were originally written for solo violin with piano accompaniment, and then later Elgar orchestrated them. We are doing arrangements for this performance that were transcribed for solo cello, viola, and violin by Mercury’s creative director, Antoine Plante.”
Godfrey said that Elgar had actually written the solo for violin, entitled “Salut d’Amour” as an engagement gift to the woman he later married. “It’s a full-circle moment for me, because I also played this piece for my own wife at our wedding,” he said.
He said the second half of the concert would be Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade of Strings,” which was composed around the same time as his classic “1812 Overture.”
“Letters Tchaikovsky wrote have survived from that time, when he was writing those orchestral pieces, and he said that he didn’t know if the ‘1812 Overture’ had much artistic value, but the other had real artistic merit,” Godfrey said. “He was commissioned to write the ‘1812 Overture,’ a loud and banging orchestral piece with cannons, but aside from ‘The Nutcracker Suite,’ it turned out to be the most famous thing he’d written,” he said.
“The “Serenade for Strings” is gorgeous,” Godfrey said. “This performance will be different. The whole orchestra will be performing, but in this case, like a string quartet, there will be no conductor. Like all things we do, we try to present music in dynamic way. Because we’re standing while performing, it creates a sense of engagement that is different from watching an orchestra seated on stage.”
He said it was a pleasure to put this concert together. “This is some of the most heartwarming, sentimental music Mercury plays,” he said. “I hope people will come and see it.”
For more information about the Bayou Theater, or to purchase tickets to “Strings Serenade,” visit www.uhcl.edu/bayou-theater/