New World’s youthful players show artistic maturity in triumphant chamber opener

By Richard Yates


The New World Symphony kicked off its chamber music season in triumphant style with the evocatively titled program, “Luscious Landscapes,” presented Sunday afternoon at New World Center in Miami Beach.

The New World Fellows maintained their track record as versatile creative artists, here relinquishing their roles as symphonic musicians to relay the joys of chamber music. Sunday’s concert presented a balanced lineup of works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Transported by the sounds to earlier epochs, the listener could have easily imagined being part of the famous salons where this music was first heard.

Set as a theme and variations, Rossini’s Serenade for Small Ensemble was a brilliant opener, giving the audience the chance to get acquainted with the talented musicians. Written for flute, oboe, English horn and string quartet, each of the woodwinds and the outer voices of the string quartet were given the opportunity to express their own take on the melodic theme.

Melanie Lançon contributed a brilliant flute melody, and Kevin Pearl showed off the warmth of tone that makes the English horn so beautiful when played this well. Yet, the ensemble impressed with its tutti moments too, coordinating entrances with precise attacks and listening carefully to each other to bring out details in the score.

While Ernö Dohnányi’s 1935 Sextet shrewdly showcases its unusual combination of instruments (clarinet, horn, piano, and string trio), the piece falls short as a unified dramatic whole. The symphonic scope of the Neo-Romantic gestures seemed to demand a much larger instrumental palette, though the players effectively realized a variety of emotional qualities: from the unrest of the original horn motive, played with precision by Alexander Kienle, to the giocoso syncopations of the finale brought out by the dazzling pianist Nina Zhou.

Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Mystic Sextet vividly evoked the title of the program. Written in 1917, the sextet (scored for flute, oboe, alto saxophone, guitar, celesta, and harp) incorporates pentatonic lines swirling in repeating accompaniments in the harp, guitar, and celesta. Against this mesmerizing bed of sound, the brief melodic lines of the flute and oboe, played by Lançon and Henry Ward, had at times an eerie sound, depicting the exoticism of the work’s title. The laid-back atmosphere of the repeating accompaniments gave the piece a new-age air.

It’s hard to believe that Gabriel Fauré’s much-loved Piano Quartet No. 1 is only his second composition of chamber music. Embodying a profoundly emotional language, the quartet, through its execution on Sunday, depicted a different kind of landscape—the terrain of the soul.

Displaying uncommon emotional maturity (all of the players were under 30), the fellows rendered a captivating interpretation, so much so one would think this was the work of a much older group of artists with far more life experience. From the Scherzo’s lightness of tone and agile passagework, played exquisitely by pianist Aya Yamamoto, to the intimacy of Carl Baron’s nuanced cello lines in the Adagio, the ensemble heightened the most cherished aspects of the work, at the same time pacing the drama with great skill.

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Mon Oct 14, 2013
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