by Cait Winston
Nature Emerging, the June 19 installment of ChamberFest Cleveland’s Together Again! created a space where audience members could meditate on and celebrate the beauty of nature, and the many sonic forms it can take. While rain prevented the concert from being held outdoors at The Grove amphitheater, natural scenery could still be appreciated through the many windows of St. Paschal Baylon church.
To begin a program intended to provide “wildly diverse portraits of natural elements,” clarinetist Frank Cohen and pianist Roman Rabinovich performed a set of four songs by Franz Schubert.
The composer’s melodies are distinctly lyrical and symmetrical, delightfully expressive, and create vivid imagery that can immerse an audience in a world of natural beauty. Cohen and Rabinovich guided the listeners through a series of scenic vignettes depicting stars, moonlight, flowers, and birds in flight.
The musicians’ collective sound was brilliant, gentle, and resonant, engulfing the room and the audience in the colors they were creating. The beauty of their timbre was especially poignant in Nacht und Träume, the third piece in the four-song set. Although played at a stirringly slow tempo, Rabinovich maintained a constant momentum as Cohen placed each note with impossibly gentle attacks that blossomed into rich sonorities.
Rabinovich followed with Jean-Philippe Rameau’s La Poule (“The Chicken”). Delightfully pictorial, the piece features all the jaunty, staccato rhythms and short, pointed melodies that one might expect from a song about a chicken — which Rabinovich executed gracefully. Despite its distinctly avian nature, La Poule invests the audience in an engaging drama — the staccato motives frequently move into dark, minor territory, building in intensity before they return to triumph and consonance.
The agile Rameau was contrasted by Angélica Negrón’s more atmospheric Panorama for cello and electronics performed by Oliver Herbert. The addition of electronic sounds do not remove this piece from nature, rather they add a spaciousness and an element of ethereality that strongly evoke ideas of natural beauty. Untethered by conventional tonality or strict meter, the cello and electronics are layered in expansive planes of texture that gradually shift to create a sonic world.
Violinist Alexi Kenney and violist Dimitri Murrath joined Herbert for Helen Grime’s Aviary Sketches, which provided a contrasting portrayal of natural sounds, depicting images of birds through tightly woven, highly intricate rhythmic structures. The five-movement work highlighted a sense of unrest and anticipation that is present in the natural world, expressed in urgent ascending phrases and dense textures. These emotions were particularly felt in the last moments of the first movement, when the only sound was one intensely quiet, rapidly vibrating note on the cello that electrified the air around it before dissolving into silence.
The program closed with Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4 (“Dumky”), performed by Kenney, Herbert, and Rabinovich. Lively dance music emerged from dark, morose material, a dramatic experience made even more engaging by the three musicians’ rich, complex tone quality. The piece ended in a flourish of virtuosity from all three players, a moment of charged silence, and finally an eruption of applause.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 29, 2021.
Click here for a printable copy of this article