Here’s a quick look at three of this week’s New York Chamber Music Festival recitals – which would have been longer and more detailed were it not for a Windows 7 update that completely hosed my main PC.
There are a gaggle of gorgeous young sopranos being touted by their management, record labels, and venues, but every one of them could stand to learn a few things from soprano Carole Farley, whose Wedmesday program included Debussy’s Le Balcon and Ravel’s Chansons madécasses, my favorite work by that composer and one of my all-time favorite song cycles (accomplanied by flute/piccolo, cello, and piano). Farley doesn’t merely sing with emphasis and expression, she inhabits the music as a role — and pianist Pascal Rogé, joined by flutist Lucian Rinaldo and cellist Samuel Magill in the Ravel, provided atmospheric and expressive accompaniment. The big draw for the evening was, of course, a performance of Poulenc’s one-act, one-soprano opera La Voix Humaine, a work which Farley has delivered superbly for as long as I can remember. She has recorded and been filmed in this work with orchestra, but Rogé’s piano accompaniment made the work seem even more intimate and suspenseful; Farley convincingly ratcheted up the suspense and conveyed the hairpin turns in mood without chewing up the set (in this case, a chaise, a table, and a telephone).
Anthony Magill, principal clarinetist of the MET Orchestra, performed the Cohn transcription of the Gershwin 3 Preludes with a well-balanced mixture of recital hall, American song tradition, and virtuoso panache accompanied by MET pianist Linda Hall. They were joined by violinist Elmira Darvarova for Sean Hickey’s terrific new clarinet trio, Avatar – a trio athat is brimming with energy, charm, and more than a few moments that reminded me of Walter Piston’s exuberant music. Brahms’s Scherzo Sonatensatz for violin and piano is performed far too seldom, and how enjoyable to hear it played with such delight by Darvarova and Hall. The program concluded with Bartók’s Contrasts, and I’ve never heard a live performance with this much pungent, rhythmic color and humor.
Friday’s Mahler tribute concert began with his single Piano Quartet movement, written when he was still in his teens and played by the New York Piano Quartet with intensity and making prominent the influence of Schumannon the music. This was followed by two realizations of the sketches for the second movement by Schnittke and Luhl-Dolgorukiy, and a number of new piano quarters in honor of Mahler. There wasn’t a weak piece in the set, though I was especially impressed by the new works by Wang Jie and Barney Johnson. The second half featured Patricia Leonard’s quartet Strangely Close Yet Distant, which quotes from the closing adagio of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony and the opening adagio of the Tenth, and concluded with a ghostly, somber performance of Schoenberg’s transcription of Busoni’s Berceuse élégaique with the quartet supplemented by members of the MET Orchestra.
All in all, a trifecta of terrific performances.