Weill Recital Hall
Ludwig van Beethoven: Quintet,Op. 29
Leos Janacek: Violin Sonata
Johannes Brahms: Sextet # 1
Yoko Takebe and Jennifer Gilbert (violins)
Michael and Alan Gilbert (violas)
Alan Stepansky and Kajsa William-Olsson (celli)
Reiko Uchida (piano)
I have had the great pleasure over the years to count many orchestral players as friends, and the one trait which is common to all of them is that they each secretly wish to be chamber musicians. A series of recitals at the Weill Hall gives members of the New York Philharmonic that opportunity and, for her turn in the barrel, veteran violinist Yoko Takebe chose to shine the spotlight on her own talented family. Apparently there is no cellist in her household, for she invited former Phil member Alan Stepansky to join her husband, son and daughter in a charming reading of the early Beethoven, one of those examples of Tafelmusik that the young man tossed off while he still sat below the salt. Here was chamber music in its original pure form, meant to be essayed by family in a comfortable setting. The conversational utterances at table were undoubtedly more harmonious than those of this group in real life, but of course the Gilberts were all on their best behavior with a room full of guests.
Ms. Takebe selflessly stepped aside so that her daughter, Jennifer Gilbert, could perform the major solo part of the evening in the Janacek. I would have wished for more passion in this reading but have little doubt that this will develop naturally with time. Reiko Uchida imbued her extremely important piano presence with a great deal of latent fire and was much the stronger in expressing the coloration of this fomenting piece. Ms.Gilbert, obviously intent on accuracy, performed so gingerly that many of her poetic chances were ignored.
A switching of chairs in the Brahms allowed the younger generation to lead a solid performance of this sonorous jewel. The ensemble sound was suitably rich at first, although there was significant intonational flagging by the closing rondo and more gusto was needed in the sea shanties from the docks of Hamburg which boisterously take over the ending of the second movement. But the basic richness of the work shone through and left us all with a warm familial glow.