Above: cellist David Finckel
Sunday January 11th, 2015 - Five extraordinary musicians shared the stage at Alice Tully Hall this evening as Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offered yet another inspiring programme. With music from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the performance featured two trios before uniting all five players for an epic rendering of Dvorak's E-flat major quintet.
Beethoven's C-minor trio (opus 9, no. 3) is music of an intense emotional quality. The opening allegro con spirito is vivid and urgent, with strokes of melodic drama so perfectly set forth by our three great musicians today: Benjamin Beilman (violin), Yura Lee (viola), and David Finckel (cello) feeling. The composer turns to the major key for the poignantly expressive adagio; he then pulls a minor-major-minor switch-off in the animated scherzo. The work then rushes forward in an exhilarating presto, full of fast-flowing scale passages and ending on a whim. The three players were simply superb, and the piece again made me wonder why Beethoven's chamber music is so pleasing to me while I've never really been able to immerse myself in his symphonies. Perhaps someday I'll find the answer.
Zoltán Kodály sets up the interesting mix of two violins and a viola in his Serenade (Opus 12), a folkish work which drew marvelous playing from Ani Kavafian, Benjamin Beilman, and Paul Neubauer. The outer movements are lively, wth sparkling touches of wit; but it's the work's central Lento that really fascinated me today. Ben Beilman produces a magical shimmer: muting his strings, he embarks on a tremelo that he brilliantly sustains throughout the movement. Against this moonlit misterioso effect, Mr. Neubauer's viola gorgeously intones the melody whilst Ms. Kavafian makes luminous echo effects. Following this enchantment, the three propelled the concluding Vivo with impressive virtuosity.
This quote from Maestro Kodály says it all: "Music is an indispensable part of universal human knowledge. He who lacks it has a faulty knowledge. A man without music is incomplete."
During the quiet movement of the Serenade, a high-pitched sound could be heard in the hall; it drew Mr. Neubauer to address the audience, asking if all devices had been turned off. The players then took up the Vivo, but there was another distraction with an usher delivering a message to one of the audience members...twice. There was also a very small child somewhere in the hall whose murmuring could be heard from time to time.
But these intrusions were forgotten as all five of today's artists assembled for a remarkable performance of the Dvorak E-flat major quintet, a worked written in 1893 while the composer was staying at Spillville, Iowa. The work abounds with melodies, passed among the five players amid a wealth of harmonies and rhythmic nuances that constantly allure the ear. Mr. Finckel was particularly impressive in the Larghetto, and the presence of two violas (Mr. Neubauer, Ms. Lee) add beautifully autumnal colours to the mix. Ms. Kavafian and Mr. Beilman traded lyrical phrases with a satiny sheen, and harmonized to perfection. It was a truly heartfelt performance and one which the audience embraced fully, the entire crowd rising to salute the musicians - and the music - at the end.
- Beethoven Trio in C minor for Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 9, No. 3 (1797-98)
- Kodály Serenade for Two Violins and Viola, Op. 12 (1919-20)
- Dvořák Quintet in E-flat major for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Cello, Op. 97, “American” (1893)
The Participating Artists: