Pianist Fodere sparks lively South Beach Chamber Ensemble program

By Lawrence Budmen

Ciro Fodere

Piano quintets by Dvorak and Shostakovich were on the menu when the South Beach Chamber Ensemble opened its sixteenth season Sunday afternoon in the Banyan Room at Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Existing slightly under the media and local audience radar, this group has amassed an impressive record of innovative programming, often spotlighting scores by contemporary composers. This season opener was comparatively conservative but drew an overflow, unusually diverse audience.

The venue offers stunning views of the lush greenery and beautiful landscapes of the public garden. Acoustically the room is highly reverberant, the sound very live and bright. While the aural impact can be visceral and exciting , it makes ensemble blend and cohesion problematical. Still, the combination of music and nature provides a winning ambience.

Pianist Ciro Fodere took a star turn in both scores on the program with Dvorak’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major receiving a heart-on-sleeve reading. Cellist Michael Andrews’ initial statement of the first movement’s principal theme was understated but the performance soon turned volatile, Fodere setting a fierce pace. Playing a fine-sounding Yamaha, Fodere exhibited nimble articulation and a vivacious affinity for Dvorak’s Czech rhythms. His expressive phrasing highlighted the tender melody of the Dumka and, despite the harsh immediacy of the acoustic, Fodere managed some finely nuanced variations of dynamics. Playing at an unusually broad tempo, he exuded a light, deft touch in the Scherzo and managed the gear switches of tempo with smooth precision. The final Allegro danced at a lively clip, the coda shaped with elegance. Amidst a strong ensemble effort, violist Rafael Ramirez stood out for his glowing tone and aristocratic shaping of the solo melodic lines.

Ostensibly one of Shostakovich’s lighter scores, the Piano Quintet in G minor dates from 1940, just four years after the composer’s first brush with Soviet censorship. Beneath the quintet’s often breezy surface, emotional turmoil surges through the score.

Shostakovich’s personal anxieties and an impending war seem to form a musical subtext. The piano dominates the work, almost like a soloist in a concerto. Fodere incisively projected the Bachian counterpoint of the Prelude and Fugue and brought steel-fingered velocity to the grotesque sarcasm of the Scherzo, with the satirical gaiety of the wild Russian dance effectively deconstructed.

The intonation of violinists Tony Seepersad and Luis Fernandez was not always precise, their tone turning harsh at times. Despite some untidy ensemble playing, the players captured the agonized depth in the Intermezzo. Fodere’s agile dexterity took flight in the bubbly finale, the soft, off handed ending wittily conveyed.

The South Beach Chamber Ensemble repeats the program 7:30 pm Tuesday at the Coral Gables Museum. sobechamberensemble.org

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Sun Oct 21, 2012
at 11:06 pm
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