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Photo by Da Ping Luo.
At Lincoln Center, on the evening of Tuesday, July 18th, I had the pleasure of attending a fine concert—the final one in its Summer Evenings series—presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
The event began promisingly with an accomplished account of Joseph Haydn’s wonderful Trio in E-flat major of 1797, here played by the admirable recitalist and virtuoso, Juho Pohjonen, on piano, with violinist Stella Chen and cellist Sihao He. The initial movement , marked Poco allegretto, is a model of elegance; its main body is charming but it possesses a more serious, minor-key interlude. The slow movement is brief and lyrical but with some dramatic intensity, while the finale, which centers upon a Ländler melody, is animated and sparkling.
The musicians were then joined by violinist Danbi Um and violist Beth Guterman Chu for an excellent rendition of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s marvelous Concerto No. 12 in A major for Piano and String Quartet, K. 414, from 1782. Program annotator Jack Slavin provides some useful background on the work:
Between 1782 and 1783, Mozart wrote three piano concertos that were published as a set, though it is unclear whether he intended for them to be one. His style was evolving considerably throughout this transitional time; the early Viennese concertos are often seen as a bridge between the Salzburg concertos and those of his mature period starting in the mid-1780s. With Mozart’s own blessing, these three pieces can be performed a quattro, or with string quartet accompaniment instead of full orchestra.
Already with the opening Allegro it seemed that one was encountering something even more remarkable than the Haydn Trio; in it, surprising depths can be found beneath a delightful surface. The introspective Andante—the main theme is a quotation from the Andante from the overture to the opera La calamita de’ cuori by Johann Christian Bach, the composer’s former teacher—has much of the beauty of the celebrated slow movements of the more famous of Mozart’s piano concertos and the piece closes with an exuberant Allegretto finale.
The concert concluded impressively with a compelling reading of Gabriel Fauré’s memorable Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor, Op. 15, completed in 1879 and performed here by Pohjonen, Um, Guterman Chu, and He. The first movement, marked Allegro molto moderato, is passionate, turbulent, and full-blown in its Romanticism, although with some song-like passages, while the ensuing Scherzo is not unexpectedly playful and more eccentric—its ingenious Trio is especially striking. The Adagio that follows is solemn but not unrelievedly so and the Allegro molto finale is complex and absorbing, pervaded by a powerful emotionalism and ends affirmatively.
The artists deservedly received enthusiastic applause, ending a superb series.
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