Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Urbane, Greek-Adjacent New Live Album From the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center just got back from tour in Greece…and brought a record back with them. Their new album, Odyssey – streaming at PBS – bolsters the argument that more artists should make live albums, classical ensembles included. It’s also genteel party music. 0riginally broadcast on PBS” Live From Lincoln Center, it features both standard repertoire and more obscure material diversely associated with Hellenic culture.

It begins with Tara Helen O’Connor’s dynamically swaying, often broodingly muted solo take of Debussy’s Syrinx for Flute and concludes with a gregariously cheery, occasionally beery rendition of Mendelssohn’s Octet For Strings in E-flat major. The ensemble – violinists Sean Lee, Danbi Um, Aaron Boyd and Arnaud Sussmann; violists Matthew Lipman and Paul Neubauer; and cellists David Finckel and Dmitri Atapine – have a particularly good time with the teenage composer’s clever echo effects in the second movement.

The two partitas in between have a more distinctly Greek flavor. Emily D’Angelo brings an unexpected arioso intensity to the miniatures of Ravel’s Cinq Melodies Populaires Grecques for Voice and Piano, over Wu Han’s nimble shifts from Middle Eastern-tinged chromatics to misty, muted Mediterranean balladry. Then Neubauer teams with Boyd for a quartet of short pieces from George Tsontakis” Knickknacks for Violin and Viola. The only Greek composer included on the album gets a particularly strong interpretation: with the music’s insistently rhythmic, acerbic call-and-response enhanced by excellent recording quality, the duo evoke a considerably larger ensemble.

Then they team with O’Connor for Beethoven’s Serenade in D major, which the extensive liner notes describe as “a bit of nostalgia marking the end of an era.” Well put: Mozart is cited as an influence, and the Italian baroque also seems to be a strong reference in the livelier, more balletesque movements.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – a roughly 180-member, rotating cast of world-class talent – are celebrating fifty years of exploring the vast world of small-ensemble repertoire, in intimate performances that continue year-round from their home base at Alice Tully Hall.

September 14, 2019 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Slavic Surrealism, Somber Strauss and Bittersweet Beethoven at Lincoln Center

This past evening the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center staged a program on themes of endings and goodbyes. In various configurations, eight musicians contributed to a final work in a specific genre, an elegy, and what could have been a fervent wave goodbye to a composer’s beloved home turf. Each was performed in unusually high-definition, sometimes revelatory detail. What appeared to be a sold-out crowd agreed that braving late-winter bluster for a show like this was infinitely more rewarding than snuggling with a handful of favorite records (or with youtube).

Pianist Gilbert Kalish and violinist Bella Hristova opened the night with a remarkably straightforward take of Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 10. It seemed just a hair slow. That turned out to be a wise choice, considering that other musicians often romp through the whole thing since the piano part does not require typical Beethovenesque virtuosity (the duke who commissioned it also played the premiere). Likewise, Hristova held back on the vibrato until the hymnal second movement was underway: the effect turned what could have been sentimentality into genuine bittersweetness. Constant exchanges between piano lefthand and violin were coyly amusing, in contrast to the first hint of an ending in the third movement, which Kalish imbued with a distantly desperate quality, raising the ante with sudden extra vigor.

The centerpiece was an absolutely shattering performance of Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen, arguably the saddest tone poem ever written. Violinist Arnaud Sussmann, violists Mark Holloway and Richard O’Neil, cellists Dmitri Atapine and David Requiro, and bassist Xavier Foley joined Hristova to build a relentless, aching, meticulous interweave that finally came full circle, fueled by the cellos’ plaintive angst. Here as elsewhere, the septet’s attention to minutiae was such that Strauss’ cell-like permutations echoed Bach as much as they foreshadowed Philip Glass. At the end, the audience sat in stunned silence for what felt like a full thirty seconds before breaking into applause.

Dynamics bristled and sparkled throughout the night’s coda, Dvorak’s Trio in E Minor for Piano, Violin and Cello, best known as the Dumky. Joined by Sussmann and Requiro, Kalish seemed to revel in the suite’s almost gleeful phantasmagoria. The savagery in how the composer takes an initial, cloying dance theme and then twists it through a funhouse mirror had a magnetic effect on the trio, especially when Kalish decided to pick up the pace. The numerous contrasts, particularly a silken ending to the adagio second movement, were striking and unselfconsciously poignant…or just plain funny. Sussmann and Requiro approached their solo spots with a straightforwardness that matched the Beethoven. It wouldn’t be fair to call the ending diabolical, but it was close, a devilishly good time. Glistening with Slavic chromatics, if this was a goodbye, it could have been a salute to everything Dvorak loved about his home country…and also quite possibly a snide dismissal of everything he didn’t.

February 26, 2019 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Concert Review: Dmitri Atapine and Hye-Yeon Park at St. Paul’s Chapel, NYC 2/9/09

A captivating, frequently fascinating duo show by the Mexican-born cellist and Korean-born pianist. Dmitri Atapine has a warm, vividly coloristic touch on the cello and seemingly effortless command of any stylistic device he chooses: booming chords, stark washes of sound or a frenetic staccato attack. He used all these and more for considerable emotional impact throughout the hourlong performance. Pianist Hye-Yeon Park provided sturdy yet highly nuanced accompaniment while Atapine was carrying the melody, and when she took over impressed with a lyrical feel that was most apparent during the program’s most overtly Romantic moments, particularly during the second movement of their Beethoven selection and then one by Tschaikovsky.

 

The opening piece, Luigi Boccherini’s Sonata for Cello and Continuo in A Major, G. 4 gave Atapine a chance to explore the totality of the cello’s dynamic range: Boccherini, being one of the foremost cellists of his era, wrote frequently for the instrument. The two followed with Beethoven’s for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102. No. 1 that gave Park the spotlight for some affecting cascades once the second of its five movements got underway was a big crowd-pleaser; a rearrangement of a Tschaikovsky’s Pezzo Capricioso, Op. 62  was effective in maintaining the feeling of longing and anticipation left behind by the Beethoven.

 

The first of two real eye-openers was a student work by Ligeti, the Sonata for Cello Solo which in fact went unpublished til the 80s, big plucked chords striking amidst uneasy ambience. The second was another rearrangement, the “Silence” section from Bartok’s The Woods, a work for piano and four hands, remarkably consonant, traditional and warmly accessible. They closed with Atapine dexterously handling some lightning-fast staccato work in cello etude specialist David Popper’s Dance of the Elves, a catchy melody something akin to Flight of the Bumblebee for cello. As with that piece, there ought to be a surf band somewhere to turn it into the rock song just bubbling under its hook-strewn surface.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment