Exceptional musicians make chamber opener magic

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center opened its second season Sunday at the Spa Little Theatr
Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Sunday in the series opener of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at the Spa Little Theater.
Finnish pianist Juho Pohjonen performed Sunday in the series opener of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center at the Spa Little Theater.

You can’t do better than the best, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which opened its second season Sunday afternoon at the Spa Little Theatre, had it. It was a concert of incomparable music making.

Part of the appeal for the large crowd was the interesting and varied program: Ligeti, Barber, Mozart and Hummel. Mostly, though, it was the exceptional and sensitive playing from the musicians, which went beyond virtuosity into the realms of magic and intuitive ensemble work.

The artists were clarinetist Ricardo Morales, French hornist Jennifer Montone and bassist Joseph Conyers — all from the Philadelphia Orchestra; oboist Stephen Taylor and bassoonist Marc Goldberg of the New York Woodwind Quintet; flutist Sooyun Kim, violist Richard O’Neill and cellist Nicholas Canellakis — all with noteworthy credentials; and Finnish pianist supreme Juho Pohjonen.

The program opened with Ligeti’s “Six Bagatelles” (1953) for woodwind quintet. Catchy, toe-tapping rhythms, a carnival feel, some long lines, a little dissonance, and coy motifs were done with a carefree nonchalance, great style, and perfect balance.

Barber’s “Summer Music” (1955) is a woodwind quintet staple and technically very difficult, but these musicians played with a seductive brilliance in seamless connections and found nuances and colors in the music that few quintets discover. It was an unusually effective performance.

Mozart’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major for oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, and piano (1784) was solid, blissful chamber music in which every phrase was finished, balances were exact, melodies were sung, tempos were just right, and everything flowed.

After intermission, it was Hummel’s extraordinary Septet in D minor for flute, oboe, horn, viola, cello, bass, and piano (1816). Although rarely performed because of its unusual instrumentation, it is a joy. Romantic, with offbeat and unexpected rhythms and modern sounding motifs, the music swirls with laughter. Instrumental parts are equal except the piano, which is both the glue and the star with an almost concerto-like part. Pohjonen was superb. Besides a light, facile touch, he played with a clarity, consistency and precision that brought goosebumps and smiles. His fast octave studies in the finale were remarkable. His colleagues were brilliant, too.

The crowd roared its approval and jumped to its feet. In appreciation, the musicians gave Pohjonen a solo bow. A champagne reception followed. The next concert tonight also features Pohjonen in a program of Mozart, Brahms and Dvorak.

Categories: Entertainment

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