Every time I attend any chamber concert sponsored by Ensemble Music, I expect the highest caliber playing in the Indianapolis market. And I usually get it. This Wednesday's appearance by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center proved better by at least half. In a program featuring Mozart, Schubert and Mendelssohn, these six players showed what great music making is all about: choice works played to near perfection.
Mozart wrote two piano quartets, the first and better known one in G minor and the later, equally strong one in E-flat, K. 493. Pianist Wu Han, violinist Kristin Lee, violist Richard O'Neill and cellist Nicholas Caneliakis joined forces in K. 493 to enrapture the quartet in top-flight ensemble work. Han gave us the most nearly perfect legato, reminding me of our former resident pianist Zeyda Ruga Suzuki in the years she held sway with her husband Hidetaro Suzuki in that mainstay series, Suzuki and Friends.
Schubert's light veined Rondo in A for Violin and Strings, D. 438, featured the standout solo violin work of Sean Lee, who gave us a well nigh perfect tone, rich yet beautifully controlled. He was assisted by Benjamin Beilman, bronze medalist in the 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis; Kristin Lee; O'Neill; and Caneliakis--the latter four players effectively a string quartet.
The Lincoln Center group saved the most adventuresome work till last: Mendelssohn's Double Concerto in D Minor for Violin, Piano and Strings, written astonishingly when the composer was only 14. This time Beilman was the soloist while Sean Lee played in the ripieno (massed instrumental group). This work appeared at the time Mendelssohn produced his twelve string symphonies, a more amazing output than Mozart had achieved at that age.
Its first movement contains much nimble passage work with a bit of counterpoint thrown in. The second movement, a lovely Adagio using muted strings gave Beilman the solo line, with Han supplying the passage work.The fiery finale took no holds barred in a demonstration of precise ensemble work--and getting a standing, roaring ovation.
As an encore, the Lincoln players offered an abbreviated Scherzo from Dvorak's well known Piano Quintet in A, Op. 87. Its stylish resemblance to Schubert made it a perfect choice. March 16