India Dvořák, Mozart, Brahms: Mahler Chamber Soloists: Henja Semmler (violin), Christian Heubes (violin), Anna Puig Torné (viola), Delphine Tissot (viola), Antoaneta Emanuilova (cello), Olivier Patey (clarinet), National Centre for the Performing Arts, Tata Theatre, Mumbai, 24.1.2012 (JSM)
Dvořák: Terzetto in C-major, op.74
Mozart: String Quintet in g-minor, K.516
Brahms: Clarinet Quintet in b-minor, op.115
A.Dvořák, Terzetto, SQ4t No.12,
W.A.Mozart, SQ5ts 516 & 593/em>,
Good things can come in small packages, as made evident by the Mahler Chamber Soloists, a group of six players from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, on their recent concert in Mumbai. Presented by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations as part of the celebrations honoring 60 years of friendship between Germany and India, it was a qualified success.
The major hurdle in making this a special evening was the audience. Typical of these sponsors, there was a large number of Indian and European government and corporate types among the invitees, which probably explained the bursts of applause after each movement, the clicking of cameras, the loud coughing, and constant traffic of latecomers and premature departees… but mercifully only one interruption from a cell-phone. The genuine music-lovers and regular concert-goers among those present must surely have wondered what kind of impression this audience made on the hapless musicians. Perhaps the organizers had better include a handbook of concert-etiquette with the brochure.
Even so, the players coped valiantly. Opening with Dvořák’s Terzetto in C-major, they displayed impeccable co-ordination and fine contrast between the cantabile and marcato passages, though the syncopations in the Furiant lacked rhythmic bounce.
Mozart’s String (viola) Quintet in g-minor followed and from the start it was apparent this performance was going to be different. The opening Allegro was taken at a brisk clip, establishing a nervous, febrile energy, with sharply angular dynamics and agogic pauses, though the stabbing chords in the following Menuetto might have been made more emphatic. The too-fast Adagio lacked gravitas and it was only in the last movement that the performance struck the right note of grief (especially Henja Semmler’s soaring violin solos underpinned by pizzicati from the cello) for this was written by Mozart when his father was dying. Perhaps the work’s ending, a jaunty Allegro, represents his freedom from paternal tyranny; and here the performance was appropriately tentative, halting and (again) nervous, bringing us full-circle to the opening.
Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet, after the interval, was undoubtedly the concert’s highlight. Its opening promised sylvan shades and autumnal mood, shattered alas in the very first forte passage when the clarinet’s tone hardened acerbically under pressure, exacerbated by the “shouting” quartet. However, clarinettist Olivier Patey’s soft playing thereafter was exquisite, leading up to a magically hushed ending. This promise of lyricism was amply fulfilled by the players in the ensuing Adagio; its rhapsodic “aria” for clarinet was rendered passionately by Mr. Patey with ravishing pianissimi. The following Andantino was lively, while the last movement’s contrasts were well-realized (especially the clarinet’s flawless legato set against the rhythmic accents of the quartet) with a somber, very moving end.
Fresh from their concert in Goa, the Soloists offered a charming encore, a medley of Goan folk-songs arranged specially for their ensemble. It showed that Indo-German collaboration is indeed a happy marriage.
Jiten S. Merchant