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No time for rhapsodies with Bohemian Quartet’s frenetic pace

By By David Williams
For the Charleston Gazette

The pace and energy that the Bohemian Quartet brought to its concert of Central European folk music left little time for reflection — no rhapsodies here folks -— at the final concert of the Charleston Chamber Music Society on Saturday night at Christ Church United Methodist.

The ensemble’s leader, arranger and violinist, Stan Renard, was the ringleader for pushing the pace since his violin dominated the melodies. Those melodies were chock full of notes that often started slowly but gained speed as the music moved forward.

His three cohorts, violist Nancy Richardson, cellist Christine Harrington and bassist Dave Zinno, were responsive to Renard’s desire to push the pace. Plus their darker-hued instruments gave a soulful tone to the accompaniments and the music gained plenty of gravitas from them.

The concert started with “Sweet Rakia,” a Bulgarian tune in 7-beat meter (count 1,2; 1,2; 1,2,3 very quickly to get a feel for seven-beat meter), in which Renard floated a smooth melody over a springy accompaniment.

“Hungarian Suite” featured a tune with Renard and Richardson in beguiling heterophonic texture, each playing their own version of the melody simultaneously but with different ornaments added to it.

G. Dinicu’s “Hora in A Minor” started slowly before Renard drove the tempo faster. A gentle melody by Richardson’s viola made for contrast in the middle section.

Dinicu’s famous “Hora Staccato” seemed to move faster than thought.

Enescu’s “Doina” was one of the few moments of repose in the concert. It featured a slow, florid melody over a graceful accompaniment in Harrington’s cello.

“Kaylan Raga” showed the Indian influence on Hungarian music. Renard’s arrangement made the instruments imitate sounds of the Indian dulcimer with percussive plucks and hammered tremolos.

“Horses of the Troika,” the only Russian tune on the concert, made mirthful use of surprising harmonic changes and witty melodic turns.

Zinno’s resonant bass tones tolled through “Romanian Suite.” He and Renard exchanged onomatopoeic bird sounds in Dinicu’s “Lark.”

The Turkish “Tribal Dances” had great thumping rhythms and more 7-beat meter.

Two other Bulgarian pieces were highlights. “Koichovoto” bustled along fiercely in a 9-beat meter (1,2; 1,2; 1,2; 1,2,3). “Krepkata” let Renard fiddle incandescently over an 11-beat meter (1,2; 1,2; 1,2,3; 1,2, 1,2) while Harrington and Zinno hammered along in the bass and Richardson noodled filling into the gaps.

The group shifted to Argentinian music for an encore, Piazzola’s soulful, quiet “Oblivion.”

Local pianist Jacob Bumgarner played a well-sorted but stormy Ballade No. 2 by Chopin to open the concert.

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