The International Chamber Music Academy at Ochsenhausen comes up gold at Bad Buchau’s Goldener Saal

GermanyGermany Second International Chamber Music Academy at the Landesakademie in Ochsenhausen [3]: in partnership with the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Faculty members Matthias Buchholz (viola), Hillel Zori (cello), Zora Slokar (French horn), Elina Gotsouliak (piano), and students. Goldener Saal, Bad Buchau, 16.7.2023. (LV)

Leonid Surkov, Kylie Tan, Itamar Gadol and Matthias Buchholz play Britten © Saxton Rose

Beethoven – Sextet in E-flat major, Op.71 (last three movements)
Britten Phantasy Quartet, Op.2
Devienne – Quartet No.1 in C major, Op.73
Mozart – Horn Quintet in E-flat major, K.407 (first movement); Clarinet Quintet in A major, K.581 (first two movements)
Weber – Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, Op.34 (first two movements)

This International Chamber Music Academy concert took place in the intimate Goldener Saal room next to the awe-inspiring Stiftskirche St. Cornelius und Cyprian in the small town of Bad Buchau. The performances varied from bold to uncertain, and along the way they found unique classical music beauties in the most unexpected places. In addition to the audience, storks could be seen perched by the dozens on the roofs of the church and the surrounding buildings as if they were listening too.

The evening began with the first two movements of Weber’s Clarinet Quintet and starred Seraphin Lutz, who is already playing with the Hamburg Opera and other German orchestras. The Allegro was youthful and dynamic, even outspoken, like one of the composer’s clarinet concertos. Lutz’s colleagues – Kali Bate, Isabella Parker, Rosemarie Nelson and Benji Berners – strove to match him, and they were mostly successful. The first movement from Mozart’s Horn Quintet featured eloquent playing from the Swiss virtuoso Zora Slokar, while Sebastian Leczky, switching to the first viola part from his first violin responsibilities in Dvorak’s Op.77 Quintet two nights before, joined with Lucia Rodriguez Martinez, Bailey Rickman and Johanna Di Norcia to make an earnest supporting crew.

In Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, the balance was perfect. Clarinetist Matija Raičević played within himself, cellist Ella Tomko adeptly handled Mozart’s idiosyncratic solo turns, and Sarah Harrigan, Nelson and violist Zewen Hu played with intimate style and sweep. After the double bar, the strings successfully negotiated the Scylla and Charybdis terrain of intertwined arpeggios, foundering only a bit in the treacherous waters before Raičević brought them home with a magical last run of descending triplets. The Larghetto was breathless and sublime, Raičević adding a delicious mini-cadenza before the recap, and they played the bittersweet ending as if Mozart himself had been sorry to have the music close so soon.

Matija Raičević, Sarah Harrigan, Rosemarie Nelson, Zewen Hu and Ella Tomko play Mozart © Saxton Rose

A fine performance of Britten’s Phantasy Quartet, a beguiling early masterwork composed when he was 18 and still a student at the Royal College of Music, followed the intermission. Cellist Itamar Gadol paced the wonderful opening with the simple innocence and premonitions of beauty so typical of Britten’s strokes of genius, playing a high-flying, lyrical role normally reserved for the violin and viola. Oboist Leonid Surkov insinuated himself into the cellist’s sea of pizzicatos, jabs and trills. Violist Matthias Buchholz’s richly expressive solo introduced a passionate, multicolored take on the central Andante section, which turned turbulent before Surkov’s rhapsodic solo flights of fancy led back to Tempo primo. The oboist’s final aria before the string instruments died away suggested a Britten-esque take on an old Cornish air.

The evening’s most unexpectedly beautiful moments came from the first movement of a sumptuous bassoon quartet by François Devienne. It was a performance of energy and style, with bassoonist Baron Young proving to be a nuanced master of the music’s twists and turns in a wonderfully agile and lovely tone. With spirited string work from Nelson, Rickman and Berners, only the music’s rambling structure after the double bar offered some insight into why professionals consider Devienne a B-level French version of Mozart, his contemporary.

The concert ended on notes of high excitement with the last three movements of Beethoven’s Sextet Op.71 for pairs of clarinets, bassoons and French horns. Anchored by Young’s poetic phrasing, the delightful playing by Raičević and Lutz in the semi-fugal Trio of the Menuetto, and the way the three fooled around in the Rondo finale, complemented outstanding efforts from bassoonist Kainani Nitz and French hornists Slokar and Flynn Ewer.

Laurence Vittes

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