South Beach Chamber Ensemble closes season with Brahms and Faure

By Peter James Learn

The South Beach Chamber Ensemble performed music of Brahms and Faure Thursday night at the Coral Gables Museum.

The South Beach Chamber Ensemble performed music of Brahms and Faure Thursday night at the Coral Gables Museum.

The South Beach Chamber Ensemble wowed an intimate audience Thursday night with a pair of Romantic piano trios of impressive scope and significant technical demands.

The concert was part of the group’s “Music in Beautiful Spaces” series, taking place in the Coral Gables Museum. Violinist Tony Seepersad, violist Rafael Ramirez, and cellist Michael Andrews (also SBCE artistic director) were joined by pianist Michael Linville, director of chamber music activities at the New World Symphony.

Brahms’ Piano Quartet in C minor is sometimes also known as the “Werther” quartet after Goethe’s suicidal protagonist, as Brahms, perhaps jokingly, suggested that his publisher place an image of a young man holding a gun to his head on the cover.

The playing of the opening Allegro non troppo was intense and singing from the first bars, the ensemble drawing out the stark contrasts of Brahms’ scoring and colors. The violin passages offered Seepersad an opportunity to display his considerable range, especially notable in such a relatively young artist.

The opening of the second movement’s scherzo allowed Michael Linville to display his impressive athleticism. The third movement’s opening high cello solo was played gorgeously by Andrews, and Seepersad’s tone was fluid and impassioned as he joined in duetted passages. Linville’s rendition of the final movement’s opening piano salvos, borrowed by Brahms from one of Mendelssohn’s piano trios, was gymnastic and deft. Seepersad also distinguished himself with impassioned soloistic passages. The quartet effectively brought out the allusions to Beethoven in this movement as well, and rocketed through the emotional climax into the searching and mysterious coda.

After intermission, the second half was given over to Faure’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, one of the composer’s more passionate, effusive works. After the striving, lyrical unison string passage at the outset of the first movement, Mr. Ramirez’s rendition of the viola solo of the second theme was poignant and sensitive.

Linville’s virtuosity was again apparent in the opening of the second movement, whose syncopated and relentless rhythms require a high degree of technical skill. The lyrical Adagio that follows allowed both Ramirez and Seepersad to display sensitivity in yearning, emotional solos, and Faure’s idiosyncratic, bell-like textures here were highlighted in an arresting manner by the full ensemble.

The final, tempestuous Allegro, with its sudden shifts of mood and color, put the ensemble through their paces, but they were certainly up to the task. Linville distinguished himself here again, showing pianistic agility and startling technical prowess. The bombastic conclusion brought the appreciative crowd to their feet immediately for a well-deserved ovation.

The program will be repeated 6 p.m. Sunday at Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

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Fri May 15, 2015
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