A winning start to Miami chamber season with Curtis on Tour

By Inesa Gegprifti


Curtis on Tour performed at FIU Thursday night, presented by Friends of Chamber Music of Miami.

Friends of Chamber Music of Miami opened their 2018-2019 season on Thursday at the Wertheim Performing Arts Center with an admirable showcase of the chamber form at its most ambitious: piano quartets by Gabriel Fauré and Johannes Brahms, each embodying chamber music’s capacity for symphonic scale (and run time) and infinite tonal variety.

Ably performed by visitors from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Fauré’s C minor Piano Quartet, Op. 15, and Brahms’ G minor Piano Quartet, Op. 25, also stood out for their composers’ mastery of motif and compositional inventiveness, even as the two works are dissimilar in spirit and emotional character.

The Curtis on Tour project paired two current students, violinist Claire Bourg and cellist Sydney Lee, with two alumni: recent graduate Kyu Yeon Kim on piano and the institute’s president and CEO, Roberto Díaz, on viola. Though of differing ages and degrees of experience, the four players meshed and showed a mature collective artistry.

Premiered in Paris in 1880, Fauré’s 30-minute quartet exudes harmonic elegance and melodic depth. The unison dotted rhythms for strings and chordal off-beats for piano quickly establish the requirement for an impassioned yet contained performance.

The ensemble, working in beautiful partnership, proved itself up to the assignment, demonstrating collaborative control and balance throughout. Kim was a refined presence on piano, never overpowering the strings in what is, at times, a thick virtuosic score. Her light and clear touch brought a youthful liveliness to the charming Scherzo, and the ensemble overall created a sense of sway and fluidity amongst the work’s fleeting motifs.

A touching rendition of the Adagio carried the piece into a more sorrowful and anthemic realm. Using intense vibrato and perfectly matched bowing, Bourg, Lee and Díaz aced the Adagio’s expansive phrasing without losing hold of the inflected, underlying gestures. The whole ensemble delivered the brilliant finale with a multitude of tone-colors: attractive shifts of light and shade in the exposition, lyrically rich viola in the development, and a crystalline rustling of piano, with trills leading back to the recapitulation.

A 40-minute composition that was five years in the making, Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor was premiered with Clara Schumann at the keyboard in Hamburg in 1861. As with most Brahms, one can hear and feel the relentless hard work that went into the composition — a 1937 Arnold Schoenberg arrangement brings out the quartet’s phenomenal architecture — and at the same time be moved by its emotional power.

The ensemble’s artistic poise was apparent in how the players highlighted the quartet’s motivic fragmentations while sustaining the Allegro’s long phrases in all of their breadth. With their handling of the shifts between determined attacks and tender, blossoming notes, the musicians brought Brahms’ sprawling score to life. Apart from a few minor pitch issues and rough transitions in the Intermezzo, the performance was captivating and clear in musical intent.

The opening of the Andante con moto radiated warmth through its soaring melodic lines and exploration of the instruments’ lower registers. The Rondo alla Zingarese was executed with explosive panache and propulsive energy. Emphatic syncopations and heavy beats underlined the folk character that spans the quartet, from its more lyrical passages to its dance-like sections. The ensemble did outstanding work in pacing these transitions and tackling a highly demanding score as they brought the evening to a vigorous, bracing close.

Friends of Chamber Music continues its season with the Ehnes Quartet performing an all-Beethoven program  8 p.m. November 15 at Temple Beth Am. miamichambermusic.org

Posted in Performances

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Fri Oct 26, 2018
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