Radiushina, Sona Quartet spark fiery Brahms at Mozart Festival

By Lawrence Budmen

Marina Radiushina performed Brahms’ Piano Quaintet Saturday with the Sona String Quartet at the Mainly Mozart festival.

The Sona String Quartet’s excellent performances of scores by Mozart and Benjamin Britten  at the Mainly Mozart Festival  concert Saturday formed a prelude to the afternoon’s real event —a sizzling  account of Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor featuring pianistic firebrand Marina Radiushina.

A University of Miami Frost School of Music graduate who has spent several seasons as a member of the Carnegie Hall-Juilliard School sponsored Ensemble ACJW in New York, Radiushina ignited a spark that brought new energy and momentum to the quartet’s playing.

Despite the overly bright and blurry acoustics of the meeting room at the Coral Gables Museum, Radiushina managed a scrupulously articulated, transparent reading of the keyboard line. Blending skillfully with the string players, her pianism was stately, restrained and lyrical. In the more tempestuous episodes of the first movement, Radiushina vaulted powerful fistfuls of notes at a fleet clip. She exhibited a poetic touch, in the Andante, mining the long-limbed melodic lines and melancholy. The relentless forward thrust of the Scherzo was highly intense.

While not always for Brahmsian purists, this was vital, exciting music making. The quartet vividly conveyed the mystery and tension of the introduction to the finale, cellist Aaron Merritt’s eloquent shaping of the dance-like principal subject like a catharsis after a stormy journey. With Radiushina playing at white heat, all stops were pulled out for a searing coda, the culmination of a high-voltage reading of a chamber music classic.

The Sona Quartet is the flagship string ensemble of the Miami Music Project, co-presenter (with the Gables museum) of the Mozart festival series. Playing informal performances in Miami-Dade County schools for thousands of students, the four former New World Symphony players have finely honed their ensemble skills.

In their best outing to date at the festival, the Sona players offered a lithe, graceful traversal of Mozart’s Quartet in G Major, K. 387, one of six quartets by the Salzburg wunderkind composed in tribute to Haydn.

Violist Yael Kleinman Hyken’s warm, sonorous tone enveloped the secondary theme in the opening Allegro vivace. With strong and incisive leadership from violinist Aleksandr Zhuk, the witty angularity of the Menuetto’s principal theme contrasted with the abrupt chords and darker modulations of the trio.

There was beautiful interplay of the two violins and cello, with varied dynamics and noble phrasing probed the deep emotions beneath the aristocratic surface of the Andante. The players assayed the double fugal writing in the finale with clarity, violinist Karen-Lord Powell and Merritt tossing the themes seamlessly among the players. The two fugues sounded simultaneously at full throttle in the finale, a preview of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony. Bringing comic-opera brio to the spirited melodies, the players captured the humor of the Haydnesque false ending which brought some applause before the actual quiet coda.

In honor of the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth, the British composer’s early Three Divertimenti (1936) proved a sparkling novelty. With country-style fiddling and slides plus dissonant harmonics, a brisk march, sentimental waltz and hard charging Burlesque offered a snappy makeover of traditional forms, delivered with surging brilliance.

The Mainly Mozart Festival continues 3 p.m. June 9 with the Bergonzi String Quartet and clarinetist Margaret Donaghue Flavin in a program of Mozart and Sibelius. 786-422-5221; mainlymozart.com.



Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment

Sun Jun 2, 2013
at 1:21 pm
No Comments