Five Musicians from Marlboro presented an outstanding concert Friday at Union College’s Memorial Chapel as part of the 38th International Festival of Chamber Music. They played to a small but devoted crowd.
Except for cellist Peter Stumpf, who usually plays principal cellist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and was making his fifth appearance on the series, the rest of the musicians, each with impressive credentials, were making their debuts. Violinists Karina Canellakis and Augustin Hadelich, violist Sebastian Krunnies and clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois were all well matched technically and emotionally.
The strings began with Haydn’s Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 6. The four-movement work was written in 1790 when Haydn was 58 and, like many of his later pieces, contains a few unpredictable moments, as if Haydn was trying out another idea from his fertile imagination.
With Canellakis on first violin, the ensemble played with excellent pitch, technical brilliance and much vivacity. Blending, however, was not an attribute.
Canellakis’ tone was often so hard edged, especially in louder passages, that its harshness grated on the ear.
Perhaps, after two years traveling as a soloist with the Berlin Philharmonic, she hasn’t adjusted yet to playing in a chamber music setting. Unfortunately, this problem appeared in the second slow movement when Haydn inserted a dramatic and soaring violin solo in the midst of an otherwise peaceful and placid movement.
In Kodaly’s romantic Duo for violin and cello, Hadelich and Stumpf were exhilarating. Their rich tones, subtle and strongly nuanced musicianship, technical control and intense passion created a remarkable dialogue.
The music, which ranged wildly over moods, exchanges of phrases or motifs, and even included a few bent notes and gypsy melodies, requires a bold approach, and both players dove in.
De Guise-Langlois and the strings in Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 (1891) got off to a quick start with lush sounds in the romantic melodies and thick, interweaving lines.
De Guise-Langlois used silken attacks throughout. Her mellow tone blended so smoothly that in the first movement she seemed more like one of the voices than the star. The strings with Hadelich on first violin were a bit too forceful and tended to overshadow her.
But in the other movements, especially the second, Brahms gave her long liquid lines that the strings supported. De Guise-Langlois showed excellent breath control. She also played her arpeggiated flourishes so freely they were like mini-cadenzas.
The concert was dedicated to cellist David Soyer, formerly of the Guarneri String Quartet, who died on Thursday.