International Chamber Music Academy returns to Ochsenhausen’s idyllic paths and gardens

GermanyGermany Second International Chamber Music Academy at the Landesakademie in Ochsenhausen [2]: in partnership with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Faculty members Matthias Buchholz (viola), Hillel Zori (cello), François Benda (clarinet), Elina Gotsouliak and Sun Hee Kim (pianos), and students. Kloster Bibliothekssaal, Ochsenhausen, 15.7.2023. (LV)

Oboist Leonid Surkov, bassoonist Luca Dovalina and pianist Jascha Silverstein play Poulenc © Saxton Rose

Beethoven – Piano Trio No.1 in D major, Op.70 ‘Ghost’ (first movement)
Brahms – Clarinet Sonata No.2 in E-flat major, Op.120 (first movement)
Dvořák – String Quintet No.3 in E-flat major, Op.97 (first two movements)
GlazunovRêverie Orientale for clarinet and string quartet
Mozart – Violin Sonata No.18 in G major, K.301 (first movement)
Poulenc – Trio for oboe, bassoon and piano (first movement)
Schubert – Piano Quintet in A Major, D.667 ‘Trout’ (first two movements)
Weber – Grand Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano, Op.48 (last two movements)

When the Ochsenhausen Academy’s troupe of traveling players returned to home base on a sweltering Saturday night, their cool program of music mostly for strings by Beethoven, Dvořák, Brahms, Mozart, Weber and Schubert was interlaced with woodwind novelties by Glazunov and Poulenc.

The first movement of Beethoven’s Piano Trio No.1 set the pace as pianist Sun Hee Kim, violinist Sarah Harrigan and cellist Daphne Richman showed their ability to erase bar lines in developing long-limbed phrases infused with the spirit of artistic director Ida Bieler’s trademark lyrical, occasionally headlong passion. Kim provided warm support for her colleagues while sailing through her solo riffs and creating half-tone gradations of sound and color leading to the end.

With Andrey Ilienko a willing keyboard partner in the first movement of Mozart’s Violin Sonata No.18, Laura Calligaris used exquisite bowing and an intimate way with trills and turns to capture the music’s exuberant beauties, as if the two had been playing together for years. And while Ilienko luxuriated in the gorgeous sounds of a modern Steinway, he could not erase thoughts of what the simpler keyboard instrument Mozart knew could achieve. They played the cat and mouse game leading back to the recap perfectly and magically, before ending with a slightly anti-climactic, casual sigh.

Glazunov’s obscure, slightly sad and sunlit Rêverie for clarinet and string quartet provided a welcome opportunity to hear violinist Kyvie Tan and Isabelle Parker, violist Wynne Owre and cellist Marcelo Leczky beside their mentor, François Benda, whose opening soliloquy displayed the shadings and subtleties of tone and flexibility of phrasing that he works so hard to instill in his students. Accompanied by lovely playing by the fiddles and viola and Leczky’s strummed chords, the music rose to an exquisite duo between clarinet and cello, and then with viola, in moments of sheer poetry.

The opening movement of Poulenc’s Trio for Oboe, Bassoon and Piano began with an appropriately slow, mock introduction before bursting into a typical Parisian romp, with oboist Leonid Surkov and bassoonist Luca Dovalina tootling away in full Presto mode for all they were worth, and pianist Jascha Silverstein a willing partner in crime, lyrical and virtuoso as needed. The sophisticated second theme was a little less world-weary than it might have been, but under the influence of Kloster Ochsenhausen’s paths and gardens, it was not surprising that the streets of the composer’s Paris seemed far away.

Violinist Johanna Tüscher leads a performance of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet © Saxton Rose

With first violinist Johanna Tüscher firmly at the helm for the first two movements of Dvořák’s glorious two-viola Quintet No.3, she and violinist Sophie Anderson, violists Matthew Buchholz and Miranda Nordqvist and cellist Ruth Stokes negotiated the shifting harmonic sands in the opening Allegro non tanto, breathlessly at times, in search of the music’s restless heart. In the Larghetto, Buchholz shook off the distractions of an insistent front-row photographer to give his students a lesson in using whole bow strokes to create sublime streams of melody rich with the composer’s characteristic autumnal colors. The quintet found a lovely quietude in bringing the movement to a close.

Two clarinetists then took centerstage in Brahms and Weber, partnered with Elina Gotsouliak who was sensitive to their needs at every turn. Matija Raicevic played the opening Allegro amabile from Brahms’s Second Clarinet Sonata with poetry tempered by cool restraint and informed by elegant crooning.

In the last two movements of Weber’s Grand Duo Concertant, Seraphin Lutz showed the temperament of a soloist strolling along the Andante con moto, his whole notes containing universes of sound and meaning. The Allegro was an intoxicating example of what Weber loved in the instrument for which he wrote two brilliant concertos and an unforgettable Clarinet Quintet. There were joyous clarinet runs and the bold, confident, haunting beauty of the composer’s Freischütz mode.

The first two movements of Schubert’s ‘Trout’ Quintet ended the evening on happily familiar ground. The Allegro vivace may not have been totally vivace, but the speed worked to the music’s advantage with Tüscher again firmly in command and double-bassist Lucas Caceres providing a rich and substantial underlying foundation. Pianist Victor Soos found himself in the second theme, and if the ending of the movement was a little plain, Tüscher phrased the theme in the iconic theme and variations movement so beautifully that it triggered the variations as if they were tumbling directly from the composer’s heart. Violist Bailey Rickman sawed industriously away, and cellist Hillel Zori, who seemed pleased with his student’s efforts, gave an object lesson in how to project Schubert’s infectious, bouncing energy in the last variation.

Laurence Vittes

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