BEETHOVEN: Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 16; DVORAK: Terzetto in C Major for 2 Violins and Viola; Piano Quartet in E-flat Major – Han, piano/ Erin Keefe, violin/Arnaud Sussmann, violin/Beth Guterman, viola/David Finckel, cello – CMS Studio CMS S

by | Nov 22, 2007 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

BEETHOVEN: Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 16; DVORAK: Terzetto in C Major for 2 Violins and Viola, Op. 74; Piano Quartet in E-flat Major , Op. 87 – Han, piano/ Erin Keefe, violin/Arnaud Sussmann, violin/Beth Guterman, viola/David Finckel, cello –
CMS Studio Recordings  6 5373 82503 2 4,  78:40 ****:

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is comprised of several independent musicians, some of whom have appeared at the Music at Menlo series in California. David Finckel and Wu Han feature principally as Artist Co-Directors who have initiated ArtistLed, a musician-based, classical recording company located via the Internet. The CMS label established itself in 2007 as an in-house recording company to preserve selected Chamber Music Society collaborations.  This disc offers performances taped at Drew University 28 April 2006, at the Dorothy Young Center for the Arts.

Dvorak’s unusual Terzetto from 1887 was written for himself and two compatriots; when one of the soloists, Josef Kruis, proved inadequate to the writing, Dvorak wrote more music of a simpler nature to appease him. Only the third movement Scherzo has any Bohemian pretensions. The rest of the intimate trio falls within classically proven forms, ranging from subdued, melancholy sonata-form to a finale utilizing a zesty theme and variations. The Larghetto as played by the CMS strings, evolves as a warmly emotional song of impressive loveliness.  The Beethoven Op. 16 (1796) is a piano-and-strings arrangement of his quintet for piano and woodwinds. A muscular first movement proceeds from the pesant Grave section to a full-blooded Allegro that has pianist Wu Han in sinewy, concertante  dialogues with cellist Finckel. The often explosive figures of the first movement find a restfully romantic foil in the Andante cantabile, a slow, poignant Rondo that owes a debt to Mozart’s K. 511. The last movement Rondo canters with suave, buffa energy that recalls operatic moments in Mozart and Rossini.

Dvorak’s 1889 E-flat Piano Quartet reveals the same aggressive, buoyant impulses as his G Major Symphony, alternating between dark-hued declamation and lyrical reflection instigated by the viola. At several points, the timbre and distribution of the part writing evokes Brahms. The piano part is more virtuosic than that of his admirable Piano Quintet, Op. 81.  Shimmering strings and step-wise figures from the piano close the first movement with fervent resolve. Five distinct themes grace the extravagant Lento, in wihch Finckel’s cello exults in autumnal harmonies. The music achieves some distinct turbulence in the fourth theme before the piano restores the mood with a motif beholden to Smetana. Each of the thematic entities–some exquisitely pearly–appears twice, the legacy of Schumann‘s Piano Concerto.  An eccentric waltz provides the Scherzo, Wu Han’s piano rippling under the metric shifts in the strings. A more vivacious dance becomes the trio section. Beth Guterman’s 1590 Gasparo da Salo viola makes resounding statements in the course of the finale’s sonata-form excursions into the minor modalities. The ensemble’s sonority becomes expansive as well as thoughtful, Dvorak’s having introduced that “and so my children” element into his recapitulation. The last pages prove all liquid fire, an eminently affectionate rendering the composer’s mature chamber music masterpieces.

— Gary Lemco
 

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