Thursday, November 4, 2010

Music roundup: Rare Taneyev, lively Mahler

The Amernet Quartet:‭ ‬Misha Vitenson,‭ ‬Marcia Littely,‭
‬Jason Calloway and Michael Klotz.

By Greg Stepanich

Editor‭’‬s note:‭ ‬Here are brief reviews from local concerts in‭ ‬the‭ ‬past weeks.

Amernet Quartet
(Oct.‭ ‬24,‭ ‬Josephine Leiser Center,‭ ‬Fort Lauderdale‭)

The Russian composer Sergei Taneyev has been largely overlooked in the United States,‭ ‬but he had much to offer,‭ ‬and in the first concert of the Chameleon Musicians chamber music series,‭ ‬listeners had a rare chance to hear what he was all about.

The Amernet Quartet,‭ ‬with its new cellist Jason Calloway,‭ ‬was joined by Chameleon founder Iris van Eck,‭ ‬also a cellist,‭ ‬for Taneyev‭’‬s String Quintet No.‭ ‬1‭ (‬in G,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬14‭)‬,‭ ‬which might very well have been the first time this work has ever been played in a South Florida concert.‭ ‬It‭’‬s a strong,‭ ‬imaginative,‭ ‬subtle work‭; ‬probably too subtle to be widely popular,‭ ‬like the music of his pupil Nikolai Medtner.‭ ‬It‭’‬s difficult,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬with a wide-ranging theme-and-variations finale that shows off Taneyev‭’‬s contrapuntal prowess.

The five musicians played this‭ ‬1901‭ ‬quintet quite capably,‭ ‬though it may have been a couple rehearsals away from total mastery.‭ ‬The group made much of Taneyev‭’‬s exploitation of the rich sound afforded by the two celli,‭ ‬particularly at the bottom,‭ ‬and that gave the performance a pleasing warmth.

The second half of the concert was devoted to the most famous of all two-cello string quintets,‭ ‬the Quintet in C,‭ ‬D.‭ ‬956,‭ ‬of Franz Schubert.‭ ‬This was a lovely rendition of this masterwork,‭ ‬with the slow movement offering just the right amount of rapt tension to make it moving.‭


Albert-George Schram.

Lynn Philharmonia

(Oct.‭ ‬10,‭ ‬Wold Performing Arts Center,‭ ‬Boca Raton‭)

You have to give the Lynn Philharmonia credit for going big with the first concert of its season at its new hall:‭ ‬it‭’‬s not every conservatory orchestra that would attempt Mahler‭’‬s Fifth Symphony,‭ ‬a piece that taxes every ensemble that tries it.

But conductor Albert-George Schram and his student charges pulled it off,‭ ‬and pulled it off well.‭ ‬This was not a spotless performance‭; ‬there were intonation problems in the brass,‭ ‬flubbed notes,‭ ‬and an occasional feeling that things were about to get away from everyone.‭ ‬Yet what this‭ ‬performance had was a rough-and-ready kind of energy,‭ ‬a liveliness and vigor that allowed listeners to hear the variety of Mahler‭’‬s writing in a way that sounded fresh.‭

This feeling of discovery rather than disquisition helped mitigate the length of the‭ ‬piece as well.‭ ‬The expanded string section had admirable unity and respectable chops,‭ ‬the trumpet soloist in the opening bars played well,‭ ‬and the lively acoustic in the new Wold Center brought out the harp part in the celebrated‭ ‬Adagietto with rare prominence.‭ ‬All in all,‭ ‬a decent reading of this remarkable symphony,‭ ‬despite its unpolished passages,‭ ‬and an impressive opening to the season.

The violinist Elmar Oliveira,‭ ‬a recent addition to the Lynn faculty,‭ ‬was the soloist in the first half of the program in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto‭ (‬in E minor,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬64‭)‬.‭ ‬Oliveira,‭ ‬the only American violinist ever to win the gold at the Tchaikovsky Competition,‭ ‬has a huge,‭ ‬cutting sound,‭ ‬and he clearly knows every nook and cranny of this concerto.‭ ‬There were some less-than-precise sliding octaves at one point Sunday afternoon,‭ ‬but that was a minor blemish on an otherwise powerful and compelling reading of this thrice-familiar piece,‭ ‬especially in the intense way he played the main theme of the slow movement.‭

The audience adored this performance,‭ ‬leaping to its feet and demanding several curtain calls.‭ ‬The concert opened with a very uneven‭ ‬Feierlicher Einzug,‭ ‬a celebration piece for brass by Richard Strauss,‭ ‬in which the intonation started shakily and never was able to quite resolve itself by the end.‭


Robert deMaine.

Robert‭ ‬deMaine
(Sept.‭ ‬25,‭ ‬Florida Atlantic University,‭ ‬Boca Raton‭)

Robert‭ ‬deMaine,‭ ‬whose complete traversal of the Beethoven cello sonatas over two nights was one of last season‭’‬s most memorable events,‭ ‬returned to Boca Raton for a season-opening recital that made concertgoers regret that Ralph Vaughan Williams never wrote a cello sonata or concerto.

Joined again by FAU‭’‬s Heather Coltman,‭ ‬his piano partner for the Beethoven series,‭ ‬deMaine played the‭ ‬English master‭’‬s‭ ‬Six Studies in English Folksong midway through a recital of music by Bach,‭ ‬Mendelssohn and Franck.‭ ‬These short,‭ ‬gorgeous pieces distilled the heart of the Detroit Symphony principal cellist‭’‬s art:‭ ‬a beautiful singing tone,‭ ‬lapidary technical precision,‭ ‬and a persuasive identification with the idiom of the music at hand.‭ ‬This was a marvelous reading of this piece,‭ ‬in which every note had something lovely to say.

DeMaine was also compelling in the Mendelssohn Sonata No.‭ ‬2‭ (‬in D,‭ ‬Op.‭ ‬58‭)‬,‭ ‬which had an appealing bigness and a strength of utterance that is too rarely given to Mendelssohn.‭ ‬He closed the recital with the Jules Delsart transcription of the Violin Sonata of Cesar Franck,‭ ‬music that transfers well to the cello.

Here,‭ ‬too,‭ ‬deMaine played with generosity and power,‭ ‬as did Coltman,‭ ‬and there were moments throughout when things were a bit too forceful.‭ ‬That may have been the result of a last-minute program switch from what had been a concert primarily of English music,‭ ‬and it‭’‬s to be hoped that‭ ‬deMaine will visit us again with the Bridge and Delius works he had originally planned to offer.‭

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