Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 12, 2018

REVIEW: Tanglewood, Boston Symphony Chamber Players

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July-5, 2018
by Michael J. Moran
Rudof Buchbinder

A day before the BSO’s opening night concert launched the 2018 Tanglewood season, ten of their members joined Austrian pianist Rudof Buchbinder in a stimulating chamber music program of two familiar masterworks framing two rewarding novelties.

Mozart’s opening Quintet for Piano and Winds, K.452, immersed the Ozawa Hall audience in a cool, bracing bath of sound on a hot, humid evening. The 30-minute piece in three movements exudes the happiness its composer must have been feeling when he wrote it in 1784, as his popularity was taking off across Europe. Buchbinder’s calm but forceful leadership anchored a relaxed performance, with agile and deeply felt contributions from oboist John Ferillo, clarinetist William R. Hudgins, hornist James Sommerville, and bassoonist Richard Svoboda.

The first half of the concert closed with a fascinating rarity, Polish-born Soviet composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg’s 1971 Sonata for Solo Double Bass. Edwin Barker coaxed a remarkably wide range of sounds from his unwieldy instrument as he explored various dance rhythms through the six short movements of this Shostakovich-like 20-minute suite.

Intermission was followed with an equally fascinating rarity by Leonard Bernstein, as Tanglewood celebrates its “Bernstein Centennial Summer,” his Variations on an Octatonic Scale. Composed in 1988-1989, less than two years before his death, the 10-minute theme with four variations is built on the eight-note scale of eastern music, rather than the seven-note (heptatonic) scale of most western music. Flutist Elizabeth Rowe and cellist Blaise Dejardin made a strong case for its theatrical flair.

The program closed with a passionate account of Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Opus 44, written in just two weeks during September-October 1842, and later to become a showpiece for his pianist- wife, Clara. Buchbinder’s Olympian technique and quiet charisma were the binding force for committed playing throughout the contrasting moods of its four movements by violinists Haldan Martinson and Alexander Velinzon, violist Steven Ansell, and cellist Dejardin.

This program led off what looks like a typically varied series of concerts by world-class musicians from many backgrounds in Ozawa Hall this season, including: Pamela Frank and Emanuel Ax (July 18); the Fleisher-Jacobson Piano Duo (July 19); the Emerson String Quartet (July 24-25); Thomas Ades and Kirill Gerstein (August 1); Paul Lewis (August 2); and Igor Levit and the JACK Quartet (August 15).