The Mankato Symphony Orchestra's 2013-14 Music on the Hill chamber music series begins Sunday with "Spring Breezes."
Along with interpretations of Mozart's String Quartet No. 14 K. 387 and Brahms' Viola Quintet in G Major, the performance will include the Minnesota premier of "Quentin," Reinaldo Moya's Faulkner-inspired composition for string quartet. Guest performing alongside series director and MSO violinist Lydia Miller are Moya's violinist wife Francesca Anderegg as well as Minnesota Orchestra musicians Sam Bergman, Sifei Cheng and Pitnarry Shin.
The cheerful title of the performance, however, seems at almost painful odds with the underlying sentiments of classical musicians throughout the state in the midst of the Minnesota Orchestra's continued lockout, the casualties of which now include a performance at Carnegie Hall, more than 25 departed musicians and its highly regarded maestro Osmo Vanska, who resigned this month.
The lockout effects are felt even in Mankato where several MSO musicians, including Miller, are substitutes in the bigger orchestra. And the exodus of musicians from the Twin Cities has thinned the talent and availability of musicians to perform with Minnesota's outstate orchestras.
"It's definitely affected us," said Miller, adding that last year's series suffered several lineup and programming changes due to the lockout. "It definitely feels like there is this really dark cloud hanging over everybody, especially the people who care about classical music."
But, as Miller noted, that provides even more inspiration to play:
"In some ways, that dark cloud makes you dig even deeper into what you're doing and why you're doing it."
To that end, Mozart and Brahms selections are both marked by a certain youthful cheer and spring-like charm. Mozart's String Quartet No. 14 is the first in his series of so-called "Haydn Quartets" and is often referred to as the "Spring Quartet." Brahms' Viola Quintet in G Major was written after a vacation to Italy and, according to historical accounts, was intended to be his final composition. Of course, Brahms returned to work the following year, but his quintet has been called one of his "sunniest and most relaxed scores."
Moya's "Quentin," on the other hand, is a roughly 10-minute composition that the composer based on the internal struggle of Quentin Compson in William Faulkner's literary masterpiece "The Sound and the Fury." The music reflects the neurotic, reductive introspection that eventually causes Compson to commit suicide, the final moments of Moya's score devolving into the "quiet undulations of a ruminative mind at the brink of exhaustion" (in Moya's own words).
Miller said Moya's piece is crafted specifically to unsettle with its use of uncommon meter and moments of dissonance. She added that the challenge will be welcome.
"There are some things that can throw you off and make you uncomfortable," she said. "But that's kind of exciting, too."
If You Go What MSO Music on the Hill: "Spring Breezes" When 2 p.m. on Sunday Where Good Counsel Chapel, 170 Good Counsel Drive in Mankato Tickets $12 in advance, $15 at the door. Available by calling 507-625-8880 or visiting www.mankatosymphony.com.