A winter carnival of chamber music devoted to romance

United StatesUnited States Various, LyricaFest ‘Winterfest’ 2023: Sophia Molina, Jubilee Chen, Miclen LaiPang, Kali Bate, Bebe Seidenberg, Jordan Bartel, Patrick Shaugnessy (violins), Andrew Gretzinger, Jungahn Shin, Alexandre Roderick, Alexi Whitsel, Josue Negrete (violas), Ella Tomko, Sammy Wetstein, Luca Giovannini, Josephina Kim, Mars Tiancheng, Tyler James (cellos). Lyrica Boston, Lincoln, Massachusetts, 1.14.2023. (LV)

LyricFest 2023 participants © Miclen LaiPang

Glazunov – String Quintet in A major, Op.39
Mendelssohn – String Quartet No.6 in F minor, Op.80
Arensky – String Quartet No.2 in A major, Op.35
Brahms – String Quintet No.2 in G major, Op.111

LyricaFest is an intensive program of chamber music that features international artists performing alongside emerging professionals. The players are intensely charismatic and the talents immense. It is not really a carnival, of course, but more a unique pursuit of romantic soul. Brought to life after a week of intensive rehearsal, the concert on Saturday night affirmed the power of music to address a universal soul. Music by Arensky and Glazunov with two cellos, Brahms with two violas and Mendelssohn all offered endless possibilities for intrigue, and the performers took full advantage.

Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No.6 stole the show. It burned with fire, razor sharp and yet exquisitely sensitive to the slight shifts of emotion. The players launched themselves with demonic force and ferocity into the first movement and then relentlessly forged head. Stunning moments of beauty were swept away in the deeply sad brilliance of the desperation and panic that the composer was suffering after the death of his sister.

The performers of the two Russian curiosities by Glazunov and Arensky poured all sorts of wonderful colors and textures into their pursuit of the composers’ thrilling and gloriously dense, even besotted, sometimes wayward and sometimes even snoring scores. The two cellos channeled with every fiber of their passionate body language some seriously seductive byways of Russian romantic sounds.

Between rehearsals © Laurence Vittes

The opening bars of the Brahms String Quintet No.2 exploded with such magnitude that the rest of the piece lay in its wake. The musicians held nothing back in their pursuit of the music’s final bars, whether it was the violinist’s delirious ecstasy or the violist’s sad beauty. The players exulted in the unique physical characteristics of their instruments, and watching them stroke their bows to produce all sorts of wonderful sounds was marvelous. They gave life to the music, according to Edwin Fischer’s dictum, without violating it. The outbursts of energy at the end of the piece were even more poignant.

On Sunday and Monday, recording sessions began for LyricaBoston president Terry King’s reconstruction of the Brahms Piano Quintet, Op.34, in its original form for two violins, viola and two cellos.

‘On his first visit with the Schumanns in 1853’, King writes, ‘Brahms brought along his recent works, which included a string quartet and violin sonata, both of which were lost or destroyed. This fate was probably true for the abandoned String Quintet in F Minor for two violins, viola and two cellos, the future Piano Quintet, Op.34,… The obvious inspiration was Schubert’s glorious C-major Quintet, D.956, which had only recently been given its first performance at the Vienna Musikverein in 1850 and published c.1853’.

The players were violinists Alan Snow, Miclen LaiPang, violist Emily Lane, and cellists Tyler Michael James and Ignacy Gaydamovich. They intertwined and blended their virtuosity and gorgeous colors to speculate on and perhaps rekindle the fires of the adolescent Brahms. The engineer was John Gladney Proffitt and the label HDTT (autumn release).

 Laurence Vittes

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