Music@Menlo "Resonance" by Gary Lemco

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Music@Menlo "Resonance" by Gary Lemco

Post by Lance » Sun Aug 05, 2012 3:23 pm

Music@Menlo Review

Music@Menlo Season 10: Resonance
By Gary Lemco

Music@Menlo opened its 10th season: Resonance, July 20-August 11, 2012, David Finckel and Wu Han, Artistic Directors, with an auspicious gathering of musicians at The Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton, with works by Schubert, Mozart, and Beethoven. Under the evening’s operating rubric “Sustained: Finding Strength,” Program I (July 22) urged music that “nourishes the mind, sustains the soul, and gives voice to our most deeply felt passions.”

Violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Juho Pohjonen collaborated in Schubert’s large-scale Fantasy for Violin and Piano, D. 934 (1827), a highly expressive piece written for Bohemian virtuoso Josef Slawjk which falls into the hybrid one-movement that subdivides into four sections along the lines of classical sonata. From the outset of Pohjonen’s liquid tremolandi and runs, transparency and salon intimacy prevailed in this reading. Beilman plied a suave instrument, especially poignant in the Andantino series of variants based on Schubert‘s own lied, “Sei mir gegrusst” (“I hail to thee”), a fecund bouquet of chromatically hued flowers. By the time the big theme, combination hymn-march ensued, the two soloists had synthesized--in a modified “cyclic’ format--the kind of controlled abandon we might ascribe to veterans well beyond the years of these two youthful instrumentalists. A standing ovation ensued, the first of the two that marked this fine concert.

Mozart’s fine-honed Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K. 581 (1798) conceived for Austrian virtuoso Anton Stadler ensued, calling upon the able talents of five perfectly synchronized principals--Anthony McGill, clarinet; and the members of the Pacifica Quartet--of whom Masumi Per Rostad may be the world’s tallest viola player. The very opening of the Clarinet Quintet--reminiscent of “East Side, West Side” of Americana yore--set the fluent tone of first movement Allegro, in which McGill’s resonant tone entered at bar 7. Violinist Sibbi Bernhardsson took the concertante part, making considerable points for her own silken application of melodic lines, often in tandem with cellist Brandon Vamos. The lovely viola tone that Rostad packs did not assert itself until late, in the third variation of the last movement.

Despite the polyphonic thickness that Mozart occasionally demonstrates, the gossamer balances of this realization proved immaculate, the Larghetto’s shimmering in an operatic serenity. Has anyone noted that the tender melody in the Larghetto has a “thief” in Felix Mendelssohn, who appropriated it for the slow movement of his D Minor Concerto? Most captivating was the third movement Minuetto, a ¾ excursion that plays like an Austrian laendler while cavorting in the manner of a jaunty French dance. Anticipating Schumann’s style, Mozart assigns this Minuet two contrasting trios, the first of which permitted the string quartet its “solo” moment in the sun. The sparkling Allegretto con variazioni bubbled past us in one unbroken line, ending with another of Mozart’s vocal arias for instrumental ensemble and performed with dexterous aplomb by a spirited assemblage whose mutual rapport had been obvious from the first notes.
Concluding this most satisfying evening of chamber music, Beethoven’s Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 70, No. 2 (1808), proffered the happy group of cellist David Finckel; pianist Joho Pohjonen; and violinist Benjamin Beilman. “Elegant” must serve as the rubric for this realization of this piano trio--a medium that had served Beethoven since his Op. 1 and would find culmination in his Triple Concerto and “Archduke” Trio--in which only Finckel’s occasional, deep-chested tone proved a contrast to the transparencies of Pohjonen’s keyboard and Beilman’s silvery violin.

For many an auditor to this expansive, four-movement miracle by a well-seasoned Beethoven, the second movement Allegretto proves the most compelling movement, rustic in character but capable of those explosive, agogic and dynamic upheavals that clearly separate Beethoven’s ethos from his model, Haydn. The first movement movement--marked by a kind of ur-motif that permeates the further developments--enjoyed a grand leisure no less remarkable for the textural clarity and balance of the trio of players. If the strings had dominated the sound of the first three movements, Pohjonen’s piano suddenly sought ascendancy in the last movement, glowing in the kind of lyrical and fluid bravura that Beethoven could command in those works beginning with the G Major Concerto. Typical of Beethoven’s fondness for E-flat Major, an assertive, heroic impulse evolves before us, in which the diurnal and leaden cares of mankind seem to dissipate through the force of some higher alchemy. It was with such magical aplomb that the last notes sounded, and the Menlo audience broke forth with a mild hysteria of applause. ♫

Dr. Gary R. Lemco is a regular reviewer for the Classical Music
Guide. He resides in California.

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