Monday, July 27, 2009

Chamber Music Northwest closes summer festival with some fireworks and a fond farewell

Elmar Oliveira did it again. On Sunday afternoon (July 26) the virtuoso violinist lifted the spirits of the Chamber Music Northwest audience at Kaul Auditorium with a galvanizing performance of Ernst Bloch’s “Baal Shem,” Three Pictures of Hassidic Life for Violin and Strings. As if he were a rhapsodic cantor, Oliveira weaved a tale of lamentation that plumped the depths of the human spirit before erupting in spasms of joy. His backup band, an ensemble that consisted of violinists Kyu-Young Kim and Min-Young Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, and double bassist Peter Lloyd, contributed superbly to the overall effect, especially when the sound almost throbbed with melancholy. A standing ovation immediately followed this fantastic performance, and Oliveira had a smile on his face that could’ve beamed for miles.

Another terrific performance occurred right at the beginning of the concert with oboist Allan Vogel as featured performer in Mozart’s Quartet in F Major for Oboe, Violin, Viola, and Cell, K. 370 (K. 368b). Vogel’s maintained a sound that was pure gold while hitting all sorts of impossibly high notes or running over treacherously fast passages or while increasing the volume over a long period of time. It was fairly astounding, and he seemed to play a lot of the music with his eyes closed. In any case, Vogel’s supporting ensemble (violinist Benny Kim, violist Toby Appel, and cellist Raman Ramakrishnan) were outstanding as well, and their performance received a standing ovation as well.

It was harder to get a grip on Carl Nielson’s “Serenata-Invano” for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Cello, and Double Bass. Sometimes the music sounded forlorn and at other times it was jaunty and almost happy-go-lucky and at the end it seemed more like a waltz. Although the normally impeccable Milan Turkovic had some trouble with his bassoon during one of the speedy phrases, his colleagues (clarinetist David Shifrin, hornist William Purvis, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, and double bassist Peter Lloyd) seemed to negotiate their passages with alacrity. The audience rewarded the ensemble with sustained applause.

In the next piece, Richard Strauss’ “Till Eulenspiegel Einmal Anders!” in an arrangement by Franz Hasenohrl it was Purvis who had problems with the high notes on his horn at the beginning. By missing those notes, it took longer for the ensemble to win over the audience, despite some fine playing by Purvis and his colleagues (Benny Kim, Shifrin, Turkovic, and Lloyd). The story of the merry prankster still came through with jocularity and the ensemble received appreciative applause.

The concert concluded with Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 (“Farewell”) in F-Sharp Minor for Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Two Violins, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass in an arrangement by Ulf-Guido Schaefer. The first movement was exciting with its sudden bursts of energy. The second conveyed soft elegance. The third was deliciously lively, and the fourth showed off verve and drive until the big break and the final slow coda where the musicians began to leave the stage one by one until only the violins were left to finish the piece.

With violinists Min-Young Kim and Kyu-Young Kim, violist Melissa Reardon, cellist Raman Ramakrishnan, double bassist Peter Lloyd, hornist William Purvis, bassoonist Milan Turkovic, and clarinetist David Shifrin, Haydn’s masterpiece received an outstanding performance and a standing ovation as well.

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