NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

January 16, 2014

Musical masterpieces

Olmsted Ensemble to open this year's Wilson Music Series

When the Olmsted Ensemble officially formed around seven years ago, it needed a name. So the quartet turned to a highly regarded historical figure for inspiration.

Although he is probably best remembered as the landscape architect who designed New York City’s Central Park and Boston’s Emerald Necklace, Frederick Law Olmsted was also a journalist who documented the slave economy for The New York Times. And he was the executive director of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, the predecessor to the American Red Cross.

“He was a great American and a chronicler of things American, and our group likes to perform American composers from that period of Olmsted’s life, and we like to perform 19th-century music that Olmsted might have heard,” flutist Peter Bloom said. “We think his name should be remembered.”

Another name the Olmsted Ensemble wants people to remember is Charles Hommann, a 19th-century American composer “virtually unknown today,” Bloom said.

“Little is known about him, and his music was only published recently,” Bloom said. “He is just one of the composers who was never published and was overlooked. It would really put American composers in higher esteem if he were included.”

During its concert Sunday afternoon at the First Religious Society in Newburyport, the Olmsted Ensemble will perform Hommann’s Quartet in D minor.

“There are sections of it that sound like a Hollywood film score,” Bloom said.

Florence Mercer of the Jean C. Wilson Music Series Committee, which organized the concert, said she is looking forward to the Hommann piece the most.

“I’m really eager to hear that,” she said. “To hear music that you’ve absolutely never heard before, that’s great.”

The program will also include Quartet Opus 41, No. 2 in F major by Ignace Pleyel, who was a favorite student of Haydn and an important influence on Mozart, and Quartet No. 1 in D minor by Juan Crisostomo Arriaga.

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