Epic works by Schubert, Shostakovich satisfy at North Shore Chamber Fest

Sat Jun 11, 2016 at 1:22 pm

By Gerald Fisher

Vadim Gluzman performed Bach's Violin Concerto in A minor Friday night at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Marco Borggreve
Vadim Gluzman performed Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor Friday night at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Marco Borggreve

In his introductory remarks at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival, violinist and festival artistic director Vadim Gluzman noted the luxury of having two grand masterpieces of the chamber repertoire on tap Friday night. And the sumptuous tones of the epic works by Shostakovich and Schubert filled the Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook for an extensive but never tedious journey.

Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet, written in 1940, has become a staple in performance and features many of the composer’s best-known characteristics: dramatic modernist passages interspersed with humor, tenderness and moments of bleakness. Never long on melodic themes, the composer provides enough material to stretch his invention on as the structure moves forward relentlessly and inevitably.

The short Lento prelude introduces the instruments in their roles together and individually throughout the work. The dramatic piano opening was strongly delivered by William Wolfram and his energy as a soloist was tempered by the sensitive support of the Ariel String Quartet, who were admirably suited to the music in their close interaction with each other and Wolfram. 

A stolid Adagio in fugal form was followed by an energetic and playful Scherzo and by a forward-leaning Allegretto. The Lento Intermezzo featured sweet violin solos and the good-natured finale brought an enthusiastic response from the sizable audience.

Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major is a sprawling piece which runs around 48 minutes and contains some of the composer’s most profound music. The North Shore players were up to their best and communicated the work with polish and Romantic flair.

In addition to Gluzman, the artists included the radiant violinist Danbi Um, violist Atar Arad, and cellists Mark Kosower and Wendy Warner. The luxury in repertoire was matched by the surplus of fine artists. 

Beginning ingratiatingly, the strings provided melodic nimbleness as well as energy. Their transitions and connections were handled smoothly through to a sweet conclusion.

The deeply moving second movement was taken at a slow pace but the concentrated playing was intense enough to hold the attention. The committed artists kept things firmly on track through to the life-enhancing Scherzo.

The finale with its dance-like sections and gentle moments was a suitable conclusion to the work as a whole, both energetically and thematically. Again, the well-rehearsed ensemble delivered a strong and unified performance.

Between these two masterworks came Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, BWV 1041, performed by Gluzman with the New Generation Ensemble. Though not really a chamber work, it made a worthy solo showcase for Gluzman and the young musicians in a smooth and refreshing performance. 

The Chamber Music Festival closes 7:30 p.m. Saturday with music of Bruch and Popper, alongside virtuoso showpieces. nscmf.org

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