North Shore Chamber Fest closes with night of virtuosic encores

Sun Jun 08, 2014 at 11:44 am

By Gerald Fisher

Vadim Gluzman and colleagues closed the North Shore Chamber Music Festival with a program focused on virtuosic encores Saturday in Northbrook.
Vadim Gluzman and colleagues closed the North Shore Chamber Music Festival with a program focused on virtuosic pieces Saturday in Northbrook.

For the final evening of its fourth season, the North Shore Chamber Music Festival laid out a light repast of musical tidbits that were stylishly executed and rapturously received.

The Village Presbyterian Church of Northbrook continues to provide a remote but sonically ideal venue for the many fine musicians rounded up by co-directors Vadim Gluzman and Angela Yoffe. Chicagoans who were not inclined to make the trek north were able to hear the first two concerts live on WFMT with Saturday’s program recorded for future broadcast.

The program began with the quartet movement Langsamer Satz (“Slow Movement”) written by the young Anton Webern in 1905, a work never performed or published in his lifetime.  Clocking in at less than ten minutes, this is clearly a student piece by a composer who has not yet found his voice. Yet the single movement artfully distills the late romantic style of Mahler and Brahms and proved an intense and emotive showpiece for the superb musicians (violinists Gluzman and Danbi Um, violist Paul Neubauer, and cellist Ani Aznavoorian).

The longest piece on the program was a lesser- known Sextet by the 15-year-old prodigy Felix Mendelssohn written in the highly decorative style popular for domestic consumption.  The work is an occasional piece for piano, violin, two violas, cello and double bass with the pianist taking the star role. Alessio Bax was the prodigious keyboardist who was joined in this work by the warm string tones provided by cellist Wendy Warner and bass Kurt Muroki. The work is in four movements but only the first and the concluding Allegro vivace are developed at any length.  The finale is a rollicking showpiece ,which the artists took at breakneck speed.

The repertory got even lighter for the second half of the evening, with virtuoso chestnuts and short works making up the bulk of the program. The spirit of Heifetz inhabited the two encore standards trotted out by Gluzman, the Handel/Halvorsen Passacaglia for violin and cello and a take on Rossini’s Barber of Seville by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, both played with verve.

A richly resonant interaction between cellist Aznavoorian and bassist Muroki marked the performance of a late-period Duo by Rossini and a transcription of a romantic piano work by Glinka was given a refined treatment by Danbi Um and violist Rose Armbrust.

The performance of Gershwin’s Three Preludes by clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg and pianist Andrew Litton was outstanding and made a jazzy highlight of the evening.  Alessio Bax brought his technical prowess to the fore, channeling Horowitz with his flashy transcription of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5. Paul Neubauer was the protagonist in a pair of frothy Viennese bonbons which he took to the audience like a gypsy violinist.

The climax of the evening was a thickly scored transcription of the Waltz from Khachaturian’s Masquerade, commissioned from composer Lev Zhurbin for the ensemble and here heard in its world premiere. The short work was given a rich, rhythmic and full-bodied performance by these outstanding musicians, bringing to a satisfying close a long, light but entertaining evening.

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