THE NEWTOWN BEE, FRIDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2004
by Larissa Lytwyn
Though standing distinct from the sugary-pop sensibilities of top-40 stars Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears, Antares, a widely acclaimed orchestra quartet, had their young audience spellbound during a recent performance at Newtown Middle School.
Newtown Friends of Music sponsored the group's performance for the middle school's eighth grade orchestra as part of its ongoing school outreach program.
The members of Antares, violinist Vesselin Gellev, cellist Rebecca Patterson, clarinet player Garrick Zoeter, and pianist Eric Huebner, peppered their special concert with a lecture on classical musicians and orchestral styles. Each student, in turn, had to write down one question for the group to answer.
The result was a dialogue between students and professionals on everything from Antares' beginnings as an ensemble to a discussion on how each member discovered his or her passion for classical musicianship.
In one of their early performances, Antares instrumentally showcased the range of each instrument. Ms Patterson explained how the cello, for example, was perhaps the most similar in range to a human voice. The slowness of the movement, she added, was known as adagio.
In another piece, "Tarantelle," Ms Gellev discussed the development of the music's quick pace. "The term tarantelle is derived from the word tarantula," he said. "tarantelle is an increasingly faster type of Italian dance music."
Mr Gellev also helped the students identify the "ethnicity" of a sound, based on such elements as pacing aaand varying compositions of sound. One such piece , "Im Volkston," fuses French and Italian-inspired folk with more modern sounds.
Nicolas Bacri, a French composer in his 40's, composed Im Volkston. The group also performed a segment from Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps, or Quartet for the End of Time, by French musician Olivier Messiaen.
The segment, Abyss of the Birds, uses the natural musicality of birdsong.
"Messiaen was fascinated by birds," said Ms Huebner, describing the composer as an amateur naturalist. In addition, Messiaen was deeply religious, a devout Catholic throughout his life.
Quartet for the End of Time is a heavily religious interpretation of verses from Revelations heralding the End of Time. The 50-minute, eight-movement masterpiece juxtaposes such elements as birth and death, mortality and immortality, and brutality with ecstasy.
Ellen Parrella of Newtown Friends of Music praised the quality of Antares' musicianship, as well as the ease in which they interacted with the students.
"[Antares is] just wonderful," she said.
During the question-and-answer period, students and faculty alike wondered about Antares' musical roots.
Originally known as the Elm City Ensemble, the members of Antares came together through shared professional circles. Mr Gellev and Mr Huebner also went to school together at the Juilliard School, a top academic institution of the performing arts, in New York City.
Mr Gellev, a native of Bulgaria, said that originally, his interest in classical music was minimal.
"I grew up in a town full of musicians," Mr Gellev said. "But I struggled [musically] for many years. But I persevered." His commitment, he said, paid off.
Today, in addition to Antares, he performs with other musical groups, including a jazz and rock/blues ensemble.
Ms Patterson said she began playing the piano as a young child and later, at 9 years old, discovered the cello. "I felt a real connection with it," she said.
Mr Hiebner said he had grown up in a musical family and felt an early love for the piano.
Mr Zoeter, who is past winner of the International Clarinet Society Clarinet Competition and the Yamaha Young Artist Competition, said he had been inspired to play the clarinet by a particular teacher. "It's amazing, how one teacher can make a difference," he said.
Each member agreed that each day was consumed by hours of practice when they first began learning their instruments.
Antares, a member of the Connectciut State Commission on the Arts, has won top prizes in four national chamber music competitions.
It is currently the ensemble in residence at Wesleyan University in Middletown, following residencies at the Festival Eleazar de Carvalho in Brazil and Columbia University in New York City.
Joshua Milas, a young flutist, was among students who said they had been inspired by Antares' performance.
"It makes me really want to stick with practicing the flute," he said.