Saturday, April 28, 2018

Three Pianos and Four Strings at the Eden-Tamir Music Center, Ein Kerem

Photo: Shirley Burdick
Taking place in Ein Kerem on April 21st 2018 , “Three Pianos and Four Strings” was the third of four concerts of this ensemble in the 2017-2018 Eden-Tamir Music Center concert series. Artists performing were violinists Nitzan Ben Canetty and Dima Pocitari, Gili Radian-Sade-viola and Gal Nyska-’cello. The three pianists were Dror Semmel, Ron Trachtman and a new face to the trio, Keren Hanan.

The program opened with J.S.Bach’s  concerto for Two Pianos (Harpsichords) in C-minor BWV 1060 (c.1730). A  transcription of a lost concerto for two solo instruments and string orchestra, it is thought by scholars to have been originally written for violin and oboe soloists. Only the harpsichord version survives but, supporting the above surmise is the fact that the two solo instruments do not use identical melodic ranges: one compass fitting that of the oboe exactly, with the differing melodic characteristics of the two solo parts again suggesting an uneven pair of solo instruments. At the Ein Kerem concert, Dror Semmel and Ron Trachtman played the keyboard roles, with the string quartet, light, transparent but substantial, taking on the orchestral capacity most satisfactorily. Semmel and Trachtman’s crisp, clean touch and  punctilious dialogue gave expression to this style, a style at the same time reserved yet abounding in vigorous rhythmic energy. Supported by delicate pizzicato playing of the strings in the Largo ovvero Adagio (2nd movement), the pianists engaged in lyrical thematic interchange, then to intertwine utterances in what might resemble an operatic duet. In the final movement (Allegro), the artists’ contrasting layering of dynamics was bracing and vital and graced with some attractive ornamentation. .

Then, to L.van Beethoven’s String Quartet in F-major Op.18/1, performed by the string quartet with Classical beauty and geniality, its Haydnesque sense of well-being punctuated by Beethoven’s characteristic intensiveness and outbursts. The second movement (Adagio affettuoso ed appassionato) was handled with poignancy, its opening melody, mournful and personal,  played by the first violin (Nitzan Ben Canetty), to be answered by the second violin (Dima Pokitari) and viola (Gili Radian-Sade), with a moving ‘cello solo (Gal Nyska). as the tragic movement built up to an intense climax, then to fade away. Any seriousness was swept away by the following good-natured Scherzo, with its playful first violin solos, to end with the wink of an eye. The quartet’s reading of the final Allegro abounded in charm, appeal and wit and a feel of ebullient spaciousness.

As in the case of the earlier Bach work on the program, Bach’s Piano (Harpsichord) Concerto in E-major BWV 1053 is also a reworking of a lost concerto, possibly for oboe or oboe d’amore. A work revered  for its complex and tricky solo role, Dror Semmel addressed it with lightness of touch and much delightful fingerwork, as, in the opening movement, he and the quartet at times engaged in separate agendas, at others, collaborating in joint optimistic expression. In this work, Dima Pocitari took on the role of 1st violin. In the Siciliano (2nd movement) taken at a comfortable pace, the artists presented its daring harmonic turns, as the piano wove its lines through and around chords played by the strings, then to reverse  roles. For my taste, it was a touch too restrained for a movement as poetic. Semmel’s energetic playing saw him through the rich and elaborate final movement (Allegro), its unrelenting and elaborate movement endorsed with textural lucidity and with some splendid flamboyant spreads.

In one of the ensemble’s previous Ein Kerem concerts, we heard the two-piano version of W.A.Mozart’s Concerto in F-major K.242. At the present concert, Semmel and Trachtman were joined by Keren Chanan to perform the original three-piano version. If one considers the list of people  for whom the composer wrote piano concertos, it is clear that both Salzburg and Vienna could boast any number of first-rate women pianists, this list, of course, including Mozart’s sister Nannerl. It was, however, Count Ernst Lodron, one of the most musically sophisticated members of Salzburg’s nobility, who commissioned the 20-year-old Mozart to write the K.242 Concerto, a work also referred to as the “Lodron” Concerto. It was to be played by the Count’s wife and two daughters, who happened to be Mozart’s students. Each part, in which case, was tailored to the ability of the performer who would play it, with the degree of difficulty adjusted for differences in skill and experience: two of the solo parts are moderately difficult, while the third, that intended for the younger of the two daughters, is more modest in its demands. Despite the unavoidably awkward positioning of the three pianos on the small stage of the Eden-Tamir Music Center, the artists managed to maintain eye contact, as they engaged in well-coordinated gestures, offering the concerto energetic, stylish flare in the outer movements in a performance bristling with charm, joy and delicacy and indulging in its copious Rococo figuration.  With Pocitari leading in, the second movement (Adagio), defined by its lyrical, melodic passages, emerged poignant and highly expressive, one might even say, "feminine" in style. In the final movement (Rondeau, Tempo di Minuetto) each soloist was heard in individual utterances, as the string quartet built the movement up to a dramatic finale.  Found on the manuscript, the dedication, written in Mozart’s own hand, reads: “For Her Excellency, Her Ladyship, the Countess Lodron...and her daughters, their Ladyships the Countesses Aloysia and Giuseppa." Performing it at Ein Kerem, with the string quartet functioning effectively in the one-instrument-to-a-part concept, certainly created the idea of a house performance at the Lodron residence, with the three noble lady students shining in the presence of their guests.


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