AMICI CHAMBER ENSEMBLE reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Friday, January 19, 2007 8 pm

AMICI presents

A BRAHMS REPAST

Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St West

The gentle, lyrical, “Sonata in A Major Op. 100”, for violin composed by Brahms in a pastoral setting, is presented here transcribed for clarinet, the instrument that so attracted the composer during the autumn of his life. This work is remarkable for its economical lyricism.

Over Patricia Parr’s angular piano work, the clarinet of Joaquin Valdepenas glides like a shadow over the stones of a terraced garden, creating a mood that contemplates the passage of time wistfully but without regret.

Piano and clarinet enter the scherzo almost simultaneously, mirroring each other’s quick stepping of a Hungarian folk dance. The third movement is episodic: the instruments dialogue, embellishing each other, or the piano rolls like a landscape backgrounding the pleasant tale being told by the clarinet.

Then, David Hetherington, pictured here, came to the microphone and asked, “Is there a violinist in the house?”
Yonathan Berick’s violin had been accidentally disabled. An eminent violinist in the audience happened to know of one located nearby, probably a 1779 “Salabue” Guadagnini.

Berick restored, played together with Hetherington on cello Gary Kulesha’s “Pro et Contra” (1995)– a work full of spiky, angular, jazz inflected rhythms, intended to portray the unsettled turmoil of our present high contrast way of life. Lyrical violin and abrasive cello deliberately uttered sour harmonies, weird slithering glissandos, arco and pizzicato arguments, nervous freaked out sonorities, before concluding their dialogue in the mode of matrimonial bickering as conversation. A good natured wakeful piece.

The ‘Adagio’ from Brahms’ “Trio in A Minor Op. 114″, a magnificent, fluidly built, contemplative work was dedicated to the memory of the late friend of AMICI, Eugene Rittich, sometime principle horn of the TSO. The natural voice of the clarinet blends with deep richness of cello, and piano lovingly caressed into a finale that closes like the valve of a heart leaving a silence undisturbed by applause that is the epitaph for the departed friend.

The main course of the Brahms Repast was the “Trio in E flat Major, Op.40”, with the current principle horn player of the TSO Neil Deland. This is a work of sustained intensity, played, as Brahms wrote it, with any self investment, free of strain to reach a conclusion. The parts are rounded, the tempi as close to the human pulse as possible. Apart from moments in the first movement when it seemed the horn drowned out the voice of the violin, the treatment was subtle and penetrating.

Patricia Parr’s piano, whether quick or moody, kept the performance in focus and restrained a slight tendency toward Mahlerization. Berwick’s violin, particularly in the melancholy ‘Adagio’ made some delicious harmonies in unison with the horn an octave below.

The audience burst into applause when the piece ended, in equal appreciation of the music and the humanity of the evening, the sense of continuity and community vividly in evidence among the musicians and friends of AMICI. www.amiciensemble.com

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