Violinist Livia Sohn, pianist Inon Barnatan, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and violist Barry Shiffman (not pictured) dig into the the Gypsy-influenced Piano Quartet, Op. 25 by Brahms on June 11 at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charlestown, S.C. William Struhs hide caption

toggle caption William Struhs

Violinist Livia Sohn, pianist Inon Barnatan, cellist Alisa Weilerstein and violist Barry Shiffman (not pictured) dig into the the Gypsy-influenced Piano Quartet, Op. 25 by Brahms on June 11 at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charlestown, S.C.

William Struhs

Classics in Concert

Band Of Gypsies: Haydn And Brahms At Spoleto Festival

Band Of Gypsies: Haydn And Brahms At Spoleto Festival

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/127879942/127882225" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

From the stage of the freshly spiffed-up Dock Street Theatre in Charleston, S.C., Geoff Nuttall, the newly minted chamber music director at the Spoleto Festival, hosts a concert that exposes the wilder side of two seemingly mild-mannered composers: Joseph Haydn and Johannes Brahms

.

"Spiffed up" is no exaggeration. The theatre has just emerged from a three-year, $18 million renovation that takes the building back to its 18th-century origins — sort of. The "current" Dock Street Theatre was built in the 1930s, but is meant to follow the design of the original 1735 theatre, thought to be the original performing-arts house in all of North America.

Indeed, as you walk into the theatre, you instantly feel as if you've stepped back in time a couple of centuries: elegant burnished woodwork, lighted sconces, 18th-century reproduction plasters. The detail is breathtaking. But appearances can be deceiving, too. Backstage, the amenities are perhaps even more impressive: air conditioning, washers and dryers, noise-calculating shock absorbers and fiber-optic cables. Cutting-edge and old-school traditional, side by side.

And that's not unlike the sight of watching Nuttall stride onstage, iPad in hand, to introduce works by the unlikely "Band of Gypsies" — Haydn and Brahms.

First, there's Haydn's Piano Trio No. 39, often referred to by its nickname, "Gypsy Rondo." The music, Nuttall says, dates from Haydn's late years in London, when he had rock-star-like status, with all the trappings that suggests, including a girlfriend on the side. In the Trio's final movement (as in other of his pieces), Haydn borrowed the Gypsy strains he'd heard around the fringes of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and used them almost as "commentary," creating a rollicking Rondo A l'Ungarese ("In the Gypsy style") finale.

It's followed by more Gypsy-inspired sounds by Brahms. Like Haydn, Brahms saves the folk-infused rhythms and melodies for the finale ("Rondo alla Zingarese") of his chamber piece — the Piano Quartet in G minor. Brahms heard music by Roma refugees, who made their way north to Hamburg in the wake of the 1848 Hungarian uprising, and later toured with a Hungarian fiddler.

Personnel:

Haydn Trio:

Violin, Scott St. John

Cello, Christopher Costanza

Piano, Pedja Muzijevic

Brahms Piano Quartet:

Piano, Inon Barnatan

Violin, Livia Sohn

Viola, Barry Schiffman

Cello, Alisa Weilerstein

Host: Geoff Nuttall

The Bank of America Chamber Music Series at Spoleto is a co-production of South Carolina ETV Radio and WDAV-FM.

[+] read more[-] less

More From Classical

A still from Maya Beiser's "Air" video. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

All Songs TV

First Watch: Maya Beiser, 'Air'

In a new video, the cellist reflects on her childhood and the timelessness of J.S. Bach's music.

Yuja Wang played a demanding program at Carnegie Hall, topped by four encores. Ebru Yildiz/for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Ebru Yildiz/for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Hear one of today's most charismatic pianists tackle the toughest sonata Beethoven could muster.

Yuja Wang Plays Carnegie Hall

Audio is no longer available

Conductor Mariss Jansons led the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall Wednesday in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7, "Leningrad." AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

The 'Leningrad' Symphony At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Mariss Jansons leads the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Shostakovich's wartime epic.

The 'Leningrad' Symphony At Carnegie Hall

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/474662768/475125195" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Michael Mizrahi channels the harpsichord in new music by Troy Herion. Eno Swinnen/Courtesy of the Artist hide caption

toggle caption Eno Swinnen/Courtesy of the Artist

All Songs TV

First Watch: Michael Mizrahi, 'Harpsichords'

Pianist Michael Mizrahi channels old school harpsichord music in a new piece by Troy Herion.

Music director Iván Fischer leading an Budapest Festival Orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall in New York Thursday. A.J. Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption A.J. Wilhelm for NPR

Carnegie Hall Live

Budapest Festival Orchestra Plays Carnegie Hall

Iván Fischer conducts a Liszt piano concerto with soloist Marc-André Hamelin.

Budapest Festival Orchestra Plays Carnegie Hall

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/466299701/467669984" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Lawrence Brownlee performs with pianist Jason Moran in the active crypt below the historic Church of the Intercession in Harlem. NPR hide caption

toggle caption NPR

Field Recordings

Singing For Life In A Crypt In Harlem

Opera singer Lawrence Brownlee joins jazz pianist Jason Moran in an old spiritual.

Tiny Desk Concert with Teddy Abrams Jun Tsuboike/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Jun Tsuboike/NPR

Tiny Desk

Teddy Abrams

Hear a young conductor, composer and pianist play Beethoven and his own jazzy pieces.

Conductor Simon Rattle took his Berlin Philharmonic and symphonies by Beethoven to Carnegie Hall for a week-long residency. AJ Wilhelm/NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm/NPR

Classics in Concert

Beethoven Symphonies At Carnegie Hall Via Berlin

WQXR radio

From a week-long residency, hear the Berlin Philharmonic in Beethoven's Sixth and Eighth.

Beethoven Symphonies At Carnegie Hall Via Berlin

Audio is no longer available

Conductor Andris Nelsons led the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus Thursday in Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky at Carnegie Hall in New York. AJ Wilhelm for NPR hide caption

toggle caption AJ Wilhelm for NPR

Classics in Concert

A Tale Of Two Sergeys: Boston Symphony Orchestra At Carnegie Hall

WQXR radio

Andris Nelsons conducts Prokofiev's Alexander Nevsky and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances.

A Tale Of Two Sergeys: Boston Symphony Orchestra At Carnegie Hall

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/451116807/451174052" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Back To Top