Fairmount String Quartet to premiere ‘Nodus Tollens’

by Michael Caruso
Posted 2/15/24

The Fairmount String Quartet will perform “Nodus Tollens,” Sunday, March 3, at 3 p.m. in the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

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Fairmount String Quartet to premiere ‘Nodus Tollens’


The Fairmount String Quartet will perform “Nodus Tollens,” Sunday, March 3, at 3 p.m. in the Episcopal Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, 8000 St. Martin’s Lane in Chestnut Hill. The musicians are artists-in-residence at the Church.

“Nodus Tollens” is defined as “the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore – that although you realize that you were following the arc of the story, you keep finding yourself immersed in passages you don’t understand, that don’t even seem to belong to the same genre – which requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure.”

The Fairmount Quartet – comprised of violinists Rachel Segal & Leah Kim-Tomilson, violist Beth Dzwil and cellist Mimi Morris-Kim – has long promoted the music of women. This recital will launch their celebration of Women’s History Month with the world premiere of “Nodus Tollens” by the young female composer, Addison Rider. Her three-movement work skillfully invokes the emotions of her definition of its title.

The program also includes Germaine Tailleferre’s String Quartet. Tailleferre was the only female member of “Les Six,” the group of early 20th century composers and friends who lived and worked in the Montparnasse neighborhood in Paris. The other early composers in the group were Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and Francois Poulenc. 

The third female composer represented is Rhiannon Giddens, with her “At the Purchaser’s Option.” Rounding out the program will be Franz Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 in D minor, “Death and the Maiden.”

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 Mendelssohn Chorus Concert

Dominick DiOrio will conduct the Mendelssohn Chorus of Philadelphia in “Love Loss Longing” Saturday, Feb. 17, at 4 p.m. in the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Savior, 38th & Ludlow Streets in West Philadelphia. The program features Johannes Brahms’ “Liebeslieder Waltzes” for chorus and piano four-hands and two shorter cycles, Abbie Betinis’ “From Behind the Caravan: Songs of Hafez” and Eric Whitacre’s “Five Hebrew Love Songs.” Also included in the roster of music are works by Jennifer Higdon, Morten Lauridsen, Reginal Wright and DiOrio’s ”A Bright Morning Dawns.”

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‘Five Fridays’

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chestnut Hill, hosted the third of its “Five Fridays” fundraising recitals Feb. 2. The featured artist was pianist Sonya Ovrutsky Fensome. She was heard in a program of works by Camille Saint-Saens, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky.

The Saint-Saens in question was “Danse Macabre,” heard this time around in a double transcription for solo piano, first, by Franz Liszt and, second, by Vladimir Horowitz. Fensome handled its showy pyro-technics with sufficient panache to make it entertaining, if not revelatory.

The evening’s principal score was Ravel’s suite, “Le Tombeau de Couperin,” in its original version for solo piano. Set in six movements in the fashion of a baroque harpsichord suite by the composer of the title, Francois Couperin, it’s a double homage – first to one of Ravel’s great predecessors and, second, to six of his friends who were killed in World War I.

Ravel managed to combine the strictures of baroque forms with the tartness of his own harmonic idiom in a score of surpassing beauty and daunting technical challenges. Fensome played all six movements with digital command and stylish musicality.

Guido Agosti’s arrangement for solo piano of three of the movements of Stravinsky’s “Firebird” ballet pales in comparison to the composer’s own piano suite from “Petrushka,” commissioned by Artur Rubinstein. Still, Fensome gave it a scintillating reading. Her single encore was a gentle rendition of Claude Debussy’s ever-green “Claire de Lune.”

"Five Fridays” continues March 15 at 7:30 p.m. with the Aeolian Trio of flute, saxophone and piano; and April 19 at 7:30 p.m. with the Puget Sound Piano Trio. Visit

Variant 6: ‘Haute Voix’

The Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill continued its series of “Cantatas and Chamber Music” Saturday evening, Feb. 3, with “Haute Voix” (High Voices) featuring its two sopranos, Rebecca Myers and Jessica Beebe. They were artfully accompanied by viola da gamba player Sarah Cunningham and organist/harpsichordist Leon Schelhase.

Together they performed a program of music drawn from the baroque era (roughly 1600 to 1750), focusing mostly on scores by Henry Purcell and Francois Couperin, with forays into Giacomo Carissimi and Marin Marais. Most of the singing was in duets with occasional ventures into solo arias.

Myers and Beebe made a compelling pair. Their individual voices are distinctly different – the former the more silvery, the latter the more golden – yet because of those differences, and as a result of their immaculate musicality, their timbres blended beautifully. They both sang with vocal brilliance and interpretive expressivity, and they were accompanied by Cunningham and Schelhase with secure support and unaffected elasticity.  

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