Music@Menlo Review by Gary Lemco (Veiled Symphonies)

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Music@Menlo Review by Gary Lemco (Veiled Symphonies)

Post by Lance » Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:34 pm

Music@Menlo: Veiled Symphonies
by Gary Lemco

The Saturday, July 30, 2011, installment of Music@Menlo bore the rubric “Veiled Symphonies” -- perhaps an ambitious misnomer but an attempt to convey the often “symphonic” sound realized by the concert’s gifted participants. Music by Bach, Clara Schumann, Vivaldi and the ubiquitous Brahms --the festival’s focus-- provided a heady mix of ensemble in which most of us gratefully acknowledged the striking Sooyun Kim as a new “Paganini of the flute.”

The program opened with the Trio Sonata from the 1747 Musical Offering, BWV 1079 of J.S. Bach, a work sponsored by no less than Frederick the Great of Prussia, who gave Bach an intricately chromatic theme upon which to improvise. The extensive flute part obviously catered to Frederick’s specific musical faculty. This evening realized by Sooyun Kim, flute; Arnaud Sussmann, violin; Laurence Lesser, cello; and Alessio Bax, harpsichord, the music emerged as a chaste, learned composition that basked in clear, polyphonic lines whose concertante violin part and lyrical filigree for the flute often reminded us of the lovely arrangement of the C Minor Concerto for Violin and Oboe, BWV 1060. A typical sonata da camera in four movements, its slow Largo gave way to an Allegro whose phrases seemed prolix and repetitious. The ensuing Andante, however, yielded up sighing phrases quite compelling. Seamless flute work from Kim only half indicated the kind of florid prowess she would reveal in the Vivaldi Trio Sonata in D Minor, Op. 1, No. 12, RV 63, with its whirlwind variants on La Follia.

Clara Schumann (1819-1896) increasingly receives recognition for her compositions, and the G Minor Piano Trio, Op. 17 (1846), with its often Mendelssohnian filigree, exhibits many tender sentiments. Written in four movements, it may have succeeded better without the Scherzo: Tempo di minuetto, which for my taste lacks anything like inspiration and rather appeals to a salon sensibility. Participants Juho Pohjonen, piano; Yura Lee, violin; and Eric Kim, cello made wonderful sense of the fine Andante movement, a virtual love song likely conceived as the voices for Robert Schumann and Clara in their most ardent declarations of emotion. The last movement, Allegretto, proceeds genially until the obligatory fugato, which I found academic and merely ornamental.

After intermission, the music proceeded with the Vivaldi 1705 Trio Sonata that shares with the Brahms Op. 18 Sextet a fascination with the folk dance La Follia, which no less compelled Glinka, Rachmaninov, and Liszt to exploit its mutable possibilities. The players--Sooyun Kim, flute; Alessio Bax, harpsichord; and Eric Kim, cello--realized nineteen variations on the Portuguese cantus firmus whose figurations and speed gathered enough momentum to defy gravity, flute Sooyun Kim’s articulating the most fiendish and dervish-like eddies of sound with a prowess that raised this reviewer from his seat at the last chord, amidst a hail of applause and unabated whoops from a dazzled audience.

The “symphonic” aspects of the Brahms B-flat Major Sextet (1860) were apparent to Schumann, who served as mentor to the young eagle in their frequent excursions to Hanover, Germany. This evening’s ensemble--Yehonatan Berick and Arnaud Sussmann, violins; Yura Lee and Paul Neubauer, violas; Eric Kim and Laurence Lesser, cellos--brought an ardent even tragic sonority to the expansive first movement, which I have often speculated contains the composer’s first “admission” of his latent passion for a married Clara Schumann. The emergent four-note “fate” motif made itself felt, aided by voluptuous violas by way of Lee and Neubauer. The D Minor Andante based on the La Follia dance again could certify an obsession that dare not name proclaim its inspirator. Most annotators claim Agathe von Siebold as the beloved, since the music spells out her name anagrammatically, in the manner of Schumann’s piano pieces. The diaphanous Scherzo no less rose in moments to an inflamed passion, only so the last movement’s Allegretto could reconcile its melodic and contrapuntal impulses with the kind of genial resignation that we find in the last movement of the Second Piano Concerto in the same key. An incendiary response arose from an enthralled audience at the finale of this “unveiled” expression of restrained but feral emotions. ♪

Gary R. Lemco is a regular reviewer for
Classical Music Guide. He lives in California.

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