Magnificent premiere for North Shore Chamber Music Festival
Updated: June 16, 2011 11:46AM
A blazing cello, a fiery violin, a flaming viola and an incandescent piano. The second evening of the North Shore Chamber Music Festival’s three-night series concluded with the Finale of Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet, played with such intensity as to leave the audience breathless.
Friday, June 10 saw a nearly full house at the Village Presbyterian Church on Shermer Road in Northbrook, and it was clear from the start that something new was happening.
The festival is the creation of violinist Vadim Gluzman and his wife, pianist Angela Yoffe, who live in Northbrook. Throughout their international careers they have formed a network of musician friends and they gathered many of them together for this remarkable premiere season.
Playing Friday night were such notables as cellists Wendy Warner and Ani Aznavoorian, who were trained at the Music Institute of Chicago, and have gone on to become soloists and chamber music players with national and international ensembles.
The evening’s roster also included violinist Ilya Kaler, the only person to win the Gold Medal at the Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Paganini violin competitions, violists Atar Arad and Rose Ambrust, violinist Lisa Shihoten, pianist William Wolfram and clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg.
The program contained only the names of the pieces played. So before each number a member of the ensemble spoke to the audience about the upcoming music. It imparted a welcome immediacy to experience.
Gluzman himself set the theme by instructing us to listen carefully to the slow movements in the compositions, calling each of them a miracle of beauty.
Schumann’s Piano Quartet, with its spectacular finale, was performed by Wolfram, Gluzman, Warner and Arad, who provided insight into one of the composer’s most densely Romantic compositions.
Indeed the work’s Andante cantabile movement was heartbreakingly beautiful, with Warner drawing a magnificent depth of tone from her cello. It was the wild Finale, Vivace, however, that brought the audience to its feet.
The cohesiveness of the performance, the way the players seemed to communicate through telepathy is rare for a group which does not play together regularly. It was an extraordinary achievement.
Wolfram opened the evening with J. S. Bach’s Concerto for Piano and Strings, with the New Generation Ensemble, an advanced group of 14 string players. The piano for the festival was a Fazioli, and its bright tone was magnified by the live acoustics in the wood and plaster sanctuary.
Clarinetist Shterenberg was the star in Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, playing with Kaler and Shihoten, Amburst and Aznavoorian. The Larghetto movement evoked the composer’s operas, the melodies flowing like arias for the clarinet.
The whole work pulsated with joy, with Shterenberg’s clarinet at times seeming to come from afar and growing fuller and more robust as it approached its string companions.
Gluzman, Yoffe and Warner gave the Chicago premiere of “Postscriptum for Piano Trio,” a short piece by living Russian composer Lera Auerbach. It began with bright pizzicatos on violin and cello, with the piano entering delicately, notes falling like shiny raindrops. Soon enough, however, the music disintegrated, sometimes appearing to be in free fall. An interesting, but curious choice.
Before the concert three young soloists performed: violinist Kelly Talim, cellist Daniel Kaler, accompanied by his father Ilya on the piano, and violinist Emily Hyun. After that the Magical String of Youth from the Betty Haag Academy of Music played 13 pieces, ranging from works from Leroy Anderson to Bartok to Vivaldi. It was an exceptional salute to young musicians, including those who were barely four years old!
After the concert, all the performers came on stage and took questions from the audience. One of the little violinists asked the esteemed professionals “Did you ever not want to practice when you were growing up?”
Indeed, something new is happening in Northbrook.