Chamber Music Northwest ensembles revel in dynamic contrasts

REVIEW | 07.26.10 | By James Bash | Oregon Music News

With its concert on Friday evening (July 23) at Kaul Auditorium, Chamber Music Northwest placed an emphasis on pieces that explored the theme of dynamic contrasts. The program consisted of music by Mozart, Brahms, Schumann, and newcomer Paul Schoenfield. While Schoenfield’s work (co-commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest) was the wildest, all of the works revealed plenty of sonic variety, and all received superb performances.

The concert started with Mozart’s Sonata in B-Flat Major for Bassoon and Cello in a performance that featured bassoonist Milan Turkovic and cellist Gary Hoffman. They excelled in tip-toeing through the delicate passages, yet kept a refined sensitivity that was not stuffy or fluffy. They balanced their sound impeccably and executed accelerandos and ritardandos as if they were one person, and the last movement had a genuinely playful spirit.

From the get-go, Schoenfield’s Sonata for Violin and Piano underwent an intense performance by violinist Cho-Liang Lin and pianist Jon Kimura Parker.This four-movement work, co-commissioned by Chamber Music Northwest, gyrated wildly, skittering through an opening sequence that quoted snippets of Beethoven, Chopin, Schoenberg, Webern, Schubert and other composers as well as popular ballads like “Oh my darling Clementine.” Highlights included Lin impressively scaling stratospheric heights and grooving with Parker in a jaunty ragtime style. And that was all in the first movement. The second hit pay dirt with clashing sonorities, including some phrases in which the tone from Lin’s violin would just die on the vine in a magical, fleeting way. The lyricism of the third movement was arresting, but I lost the thread of the music in the fourth movement. It seemed to spread in many directions, but it didn’t evade the audience, which responded to the final notes with enthusiasm.

In the hands of clarinetist David Shifrin, violist Toby Appel, and pianist Hyeyeon Park, Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (“Fairy Tales”) for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano showed plenty of dynamic contrast. The ensemble wonderfully accented the Sturm und Drang-like passages, which steered the audience dramatically away from the pleasant sections and the phrases that emphasized tenderness and harmony. Park, in particular, deserved high praise for playing. She has a knack for sensing her colleagues every gesture, tempo and volume changes, and her playing lifted the level of music making.

Brahms’ Trio in C Minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello received an outstanding performance from Parker, Lin, and Hoffman. Their full-bodied sound had depth and urgency. Their attacks were sharp and exciting. The melodies warm and dazzling. At one point in the second movement Appel created a dark, almost musky tone that was matched perfectly by Hoffman. Parker played with terrific sensitivity, and the ensemble enhanced the overall effect of the music, sending the audience members home with a smile in their eyes.

Photos by Jim Leisy


"Fantasy is not just a technical showcase, but a big, clear picture window of a musician with a rich soul and great artistic depth. It is also a fantastic example of programming that entertains as well as edifies.”
-Musical Toronto

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