by Mike Telin
Last weekend ChamberFest Cleveland presented the final three concerts of its 2017 edition. I attended two of the performances which exemplified why the Festival has become a crown jewel in the area’s rich classical music scene. The inventive programming ranged from the almost never heard, to the seldom heard, to music by giants of the repertoire. Above all, the performances of the five works were beyond reproach.
On Thursday, June 29 at Mixon Hall, “Innocence/Corruption” opened with Alfred Schnittke’s Suite in the Old Style, brilliantly played by violinist Josef Špaček and pianist Zoltan Fejérvári. If you weren’t familiar with the work you’d think it was by an unknown Baroque composer. The duo approached the work as though it was truly from the 18th century highlighting each of the five movements’ distinct musical styles. The concluding Pantomime in 3/4 time, which simply ends without harmonic resolution, caused more than a few chuckles in the audience.
Few musicians can pull off the quick-witted writing of Carl Maria von Weber like clarinetist Franklin Cohen. And during the composer’s Clarinet Quintet in B-flat, Cohen — who was joined by Špaček, violist Yura Lee, and cellist Oliver Herbert — turned the work into four arias worthy of a comic opera.
ChamberFest leaves no stone unturned when it comes to finding unusual pieces to program. On Thursday, that came by the way of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 15 in an arrangement for piano trio and percussion by Viktor Derevianko.
The arranger first encountered the Symphony when he and Mikhail Muntain were tapped to play Shostakovich’s two-piano arrangement of the work for the Union of Composers in order to obtain approval for the Symphony to be performed in public. After hearing it in concert, Derevianko decided to make his own version for chamber ensemble.
Although it almost becomes a new piece, the arrangement works wonderfully. And the performance by violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, cellist Julie Albers, pianist Roman Rabinovich, and percussionists Paul Yancich, Marc Damoulakis, and Alexander Cohen, was mesmerizing from beginning to end.
The Symphony is full of Shostakovich’s sardonic humor, but there are plenty of lighthearted moments as well. Of course, a quotation from the William Tell Overture in the first movement caused some chuckles. Some unintended laughter also broke out when the start of the Adagio was delayed to fix a snapped piano string and Rabinovich asked if there was a doctor in the house. But the defining silence that followed the final note was haunting.
ChamberFest came “Full Circle” on Saturday, July 1 at the Maltz Performing Arts Center. The concert opened with Mozart’s sublime Clarinet Quintet, and Franklin Cohen was in his element. Joined by violinists Josef Špaček and Diana Cohen, violist Yura Lee, and cellist Oliver Herbert, it’s difficult to imagine that a better performance is possible — the Larghetto was other-worldly.
A charming addition of this year’s ChamberFest is the upcoming wedding of Diana Cohen and pianist Roman Rabinovich, who met each other at the Festival. Following touching words by the pianist about his bride-to-be, the two performed the final movement of Franck’s Violin Sonata — an appropriate choice given that the Sonata was a wedding gift from the composer to violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.
The Festival concluded in spectacular fashion with Dvořák’s rustic Piano Quintet No. 2 in A. Violinists Špaček and Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Teng Li, cellist Julie Albers, and pianist Rabinovich brought out every musical emotion that is buried in the folk music-flavored work — full-bodied, crisp, soulful, light-hearted, bold, and joyful.
Following the performance, the audience was invited to the Maltz Center’s front patio to join in a toast to the newlyweds-to-be. And to bid farewell to another outstanding ChamberFest Cleveland season.
Photos by Gary Adams.
Published on ClevelandClassical.com July 5, 2017.
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