Schubert fares best in New World’s uneven chamber program

By Lawrence Budmen

"Rainbow Trout" by Karen Talbot.

“Rainbow Trout” by Karen Talbot.

The New World Symphony musicians that performed at Sunday afternoon’s chamber music concert seemed to inhabit two different worlds. Schubert’s “Trout” Quintet soared with emotion and deep feeling, while the players who negotiated Beethoven’s final string quartet seemed only slightly beyond the sight-reading stage. There were late changes in personnel from the player roster in the printed program for each of the concert’s three works—which perhaps accounted for the chaotic, wildly varying quality of the performances.

Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 16 in F Major, Op. 135, his final completed composition, is the most spirited of his final quartets but it is far from lightweight. While three of the four New World fellows played the score competently, their once-over-lightly reading lacked tension and focus. The superb acoustic of the New World Center can aid greatly in projecting a strong, well-rehearsed performance but it can also be merciless in exposing flaws in intonation and balance. First violinist Hugh Palmer’s tone emerged wiry and his pitch sagged at times, while the group’s corporate sonority was thin and anemic.

The musicians were at their best in the playful misplaced accents of the second movement Vivace and the slow introduction to the finale which drew some drama and intensity that would have been welcome in the rest of the score. In the final Allegro, Caroline Gilbert’s viola projected the inner lines cleanly, giving much-needed impetus to a reading lacking vitality.  Violinist Sunjoo Park and cellist Meredith McCook also participated in the performance.

Conversely, there was a wonderfully subtle interplay between instruments in a vibrant reading of Schubert’s Quintet in A Major. Cellist Rosanna Butterfield’s supple phrasing and singing tone blended mellifluously with Derek Mosloff’s viola. Pianist Amy Yamamoto was a stalwart protagonist, with graceful shaping of thematic figures, evenly balanced and never overpowering her fellow players.

Yamamoto’s fleet-fingered approach summoned power as well as nuance. playing perfectly even in the instrument’s highest register at fast speed. In the fourth movement Theme and Variations, her rhythmic inflections seemed almost improvisatory. Violinist Foster Wang’s lithe touch and sweetness of tone was potent in the Scherzo. The underpinning of Eric Shetzen’s bass provided well-calibrated support at the lower instrumental depths. Taken at a natural and relaxed pace, the finale was beautifully proportioned with every player’s line clear and present, the balance well nigh ideal.

The concert opened with Accordance by Peter Lieberson. The late American composer went through many phases in his creative career, at various times embracing atonality, modal spirituality and lyricism.

Essentially a ten-minute chamber overture, Accordance is an early work, written in 1975. A bracing series of unison chords by the nine-member ensemble commences this neo-Classical romp, replete with inventive short solo instrumental figurations. Harpist Julia Coronelli and pianist Yu Zhang were a bristling duo, unafraid to sound harsh in Lieberson’s more strident moments. Former New World fellow Joseph Peters was the expert conductor, attentive to Lieberson’s rapid changes of meter and dynamics.

The New World Symphony’s chamber series continues with violinist Roberto González-Monjas and New World fellows playing works by Respighi, Gliére and Dvorak 2 p.m. December 21 at the New World Center in Miami Beach.; 305-673-3331.

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Mon Nov 17, 2014
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