A Delectable Schubert Programme in Seattle

03/06/2011

Schubert: Onyx Chamber Players (David White, piano; James Garlick, violin; Meg Brennand, cello); J. Melvin Butler (viola); Stephen Schermer (contrabass); Downstairs at Town Hall, Seattle, 29.5.2011 (BJ)

This was a delectable program, consisting of Schubert’s E-flat-major Piano Trio and his “Trout” Quintet. There was much to enjoy also in the performances, but the curious thing about the concert was that the great and profound trio emerged considerably less magical than the relatively – if only relatively – lightweight quintet.

It may be that the problematic acoustics of the room – not the main Town Hall auditorium, but a much smaller and low-ceilinged room downstairs – had a lot to do with this. There is a good deal of assertive, large-limbed writing in the trio. The Onyx players took an appropriately forceful approach to it, bestowing particular care on crisp accentuation, but the result, especially in full chords on the piano, tended to come across too aggressively. This was a pity, because David White showed in quieter passages both here and in the quintet that he commands a wide range of often delicate expression.

Joined by J. Melvin Butler and Stephen Schermer on viola and contrabass after intermission, the Onyx musicians, along with their highly competent guests, laid more stress on the quietness that informs long stretches of the “Trout.” White dealt especially well with the frequent passages of octaves near the top of the keyboard, which he emphasized in his amusing and illuminating pre-performance remarks. James Garlick made a beautifully pure sound throughout the evening, though his intonation was not impeccable. And about the Onyx cellist, Meg Brennand, I don’t quite know what to say. She was much more successful in the quintet than she had been in the trio, offering many touches of sensitive playing, especially in what may be called the tenor register. It’s hard for a critic, however, to judge on one hearing, in one hall, how much of a cellist’s sound is attributable to the player and how much to the instrument played. But there was enough artistry in Ms. Brennand’s playing to suggest that it may well have been her cello rather than her technique that militated against the production of any really warm, luminous tone. There was something costive about the sounds that came from her instrument, and I suspect that she would benefit significantly from the possession of a better one.

Still and all, two wonderful and well-contrasted Schubert chamber works in one evening made for much pleasurable satisfaction – and the “Trout” Andante in particular, eloquently phrased and masterfully restrained in sonority, exerted the authentic gooseflesh effect that great music can produce.

Bernard Jacobson

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! ENB in 2019-2020 and Updates on their New London City Island Home __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers 29 April – 11 May 2019 in Leicester __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music and Other Events at the Southbank Centre in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Longborough Festival Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Cleveland Orchestra in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Classical Music at the Barbican in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2019-20 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall 2019-2020 Season Highlights __________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera’s 2019 Performances of Stephen Storace’s Gli sposi malcontenti __________________________________
  • NEW! Nevill Holt Opera’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! 2019 Aldeburgh Festival at the Snape Maltings in June __________________________________
  • NEW! Garsington Opera’s 2019 30th Anniversary Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Venus Unwrapped: Kings Place’s Year-Long Focus on Women Composers __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Buenos Aires in 2019 – Largely Traditional __________________________________
  • NEW! Looking Ahead to the 2019 Lucerne Festivals __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Holland Park’s 2019 Season __________________________________
  • The Royal Opera House’s Exciting 2018/19 Cinema Season __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! A New Initiative is Announced Supporting the Development of Female Conductors __________________________________
  • NEW! In August Fulham Opera’s Most Ambitious Project to Date – Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Boito’s Mefistofele on 24 March at the QEH __________________________________
  • R.I.P. IN MEMORIAM ANDRÉ PREVIN (1929-2019) __________________________________
  • NEW! CHRISTOPHE ROUSSET IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Ivan Putrov’s Against the Stream Ballet Gala Night on 7 April __________________________________
  • NEW! London To Hear Long-Overdue Revival of Parry’s Oratorio Judith in April __________________________________
  • NEW! PIANIST MARC-ANDRÉ HAMELIN IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • NEW! Ik zeg: NU: I say now, now … an interview with Richard Causton __________________________________
  • NEW! CONDUCTOR ÁDÁM FISCHER IN CONVERSATION WITH MICHAEL COOKSON __________________________________
  • NEW! SOPRANO ELENA MOȘUC IN CONVERSATION WITH CASEY CREEL __________________________________
  • NEW! MAESTRO RICCARDO FRIZZA IN CONVERSATION WITH MARGARIDA MOTA-BULL __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH GERMAN SOPRANO PETRA LANG __________________________________
  • HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month