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The Music of Friends

New York
Yamaha Piano Salon
09/18/2012 -  
Hudson Chamber Society Summer Concert
François Couperin: Les Barricades Mistérieuses
Ludwig van Beethoven: Cavatina from String Quartet No 13, Opus 130 (Arranged for piano by Charles Henri Valentin Alkan)
Franz Schubert: Impromptu Nr. 1, Opus 90
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Sonata for Piano and Violin in G Major, K. 301
Johannes Brahms: Piano Quartet Nr. 3 in C Minor, Opus 60

Benjamin Breen (Violin), Dov Scheindlin (Viola), Inbal Segev (Cello), Awadagin Pratt (Piano)

A. Pratt (© cmartists)

The Hudson Chamber Society attempts to answer a paradox. If the predominant serious musicians of the world live in the center of the world (i.e. New York), and if they make a living by leaving New York (i.e., the other part of the universe), when to they have time to correspond and play music with themselves?

Apparently, Yamaha Pianos, once the little brother of Steinway, has reached a musical apex of kinds, offering their Yamaha Salon so that professionals can get together, and once in a while (like last night) perform music for themselves, their peers, and the errant music reviewer who invades their midst.

Thus the four artists last night, who work with numerous other ensembles and are young stars n their own right, came together (probably for the first time) simply to enjoy themselves. True, those four have cynosures of their own, but in ensemble work, egos are brushed aside the good of the music.

The one commonality was Awadagin Pratt, already a well known violinist and conductor, who, prior to working with the ensemble, played three short solo works.

The first, I’m afraid, was a disaster not wholly estimable Mr. Pratt’s fault. Couperin’s popular piece from Les Barricades, has such delicacy, grace and (in the title) such mystery, that it needs at least an echol to the aristocratic Baroque music. Mr. Pratt, though, had a Yamaha Grand, in a resounding concert salon, and he played the Couperin full force. It did not bode well

No problem, though, the second piece was a real rarity. The night before, I had heard Liszt’s transcription of two Beethoven symphonies. Mr. Pratt played a transcription by Liszt’s sometime rival, Henri Alkan, of the Beethoven string quartet Cavatina. Alkan did a good job, Mr. Pratt played it beautifully, but its rarity doesn’t make it classic.

Finishing with a Schubert Impromptu was a stroke of genius, for Mr.Pratt’s full-bodied, vital, romantic playing of this jewel was exactly what Schubert needed.

Mr. Pratt was not the accompanist for Benjamin Breen in Mozart’s violin sonata. The two were very much a team, as this is a piece for both instruments. Both Messrs Breen and Pratt were nimble, tuneful, both were buoyant throughout the two movements, both of them performing with quicksilver partnership.

I. Segev (© ME Reps)

I was especially looking forward to hearing Inbal Segev, the Israeli cellist who is scheduled to play a Shostakovich cello concerto next month. But she was one of four luminaries in the Brahms Quartet. Besides Messrs Breen and Pratt, Dov Scheindlin, the violist from one of my favorite contemporary music quartets, the Arditti, would fill out the ensemble.

Having four such aggressive musical personalities in one work could have proven troubling in more modest Brahms pieces. But this Third Quartet lays its emotional heart on its sleeve, and the four players let it roar when necessary, with an almost martial opening, a highly romantic Andante, and a finale where all four players let themselves go with terrific exuberance.

This was decidedly music played for and by colleagues. Its personal joy was that I left the Yamaha Piano Salon, bereft of both umbrella and transport, to face a monsoon-like rain–and still, while cursing, Lear-like, through the merciless rain, was equally delighted to have heard such artistry.

Harry Rolnick



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