Thursday, August 30, 2018

Sounding Jerusalem 2018 - "Idealism": the Grazissimo Brass Quintet, the Galatea String Quartet and friends in a concert of outstanding performance

Rainer Auerbach with members of the Grazissimo Brass Quintet (Christian Jungwirth)
Taking place on August 27th in the inspiring surroundings of the Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion, Jerusalem, “Idealism”, a concert of the 2018 Sounding Jerusalem Festival, featured two very different ensembles.

The program opened with a selection of pieces performed by the Grazissimo Brass Quintet. Formed in 2014, its members - Karner Stefan , Lukas Hirzberger (Trumpets) Matthias Singer (horn), Wolfgang Haberl (trombone), Tobias Weiss (tuba) and Bernhard Richter (percussion) - met as students of Reinhard Summerer at the Graz University of the Arts. The ensemble opened with a dance of Antony Holborne, one of the most acclaimed and prolific dance composers of the English Renaissance. Remaining in the Renaissance, we heard five dances from Tilman Susato’s “Danserye”, music probably written for wealthy Netherlands amateur musicians rather than professional dance musicians and still delighting early music ensembles today. Here, in festive or melodious legato dances, the young artists’ polished presentation highlighted contrasts of character, using a variety of dynamics, register and colour as they juxtaposed the concept of “tutti” sections with more pared-down textures. The artists’ reading of the Largo from Handel’s opera seria “Xerxes”, beautifully shaped and tender, was indeed a highlight. German trumpeter Rainer Auerbach then joined four of the quintet members to perform the second movement of Trumpet Concerto in E-flat major (for strings and continuo) by Johann Baptist Georg Neruda (1707-1780), a little-known Czech Classical composer who had moved to Dresden in 1750 to join the court orchestra there. In this movement, the ensemble offers the first statement of the main theme, to be followed by the solo trumpet with an elaboration and extension of the same material. A cadenza precedes the second orchestral section of the movement and the soloist leads the way back to the original key and to a second cadenza. Auerbach’s steady, genial and warmly singing tone, subtle inflections and nimble facility gave noble expression to this charming pre-Classical work. The Grazissimo Brass Quintet concluded the first half of the concert with one Contrapunctus from J.S.Bach’s “Art of Fugue”, the members’ playing rich in fine articulation, well delineated lines and inspired by the excitement generated by Bach’s profuse counterpoint.

Following a short intermission, the prestigious Swiss Galatea Quartet - violinists Yuka Tsuboi and Sarah Kilchenmann, violist Hugo Bollschweiler and ‘cellist Julien Kilchenmann - were joined by Israeli violist Tali Kravitz and ‘cellist Erich Oskar Huetter (Austria), founder and director of the Sounding Jerusalem Festival, for a performance of Antonin Dvořák’s String Sextet in A-major. Written within two weeks in May 1878, the String Sextet was written between the composer’s work on the first and second Slavonic Rhapsodies, in the middle of his so-called Slavic period, a time when the composer was intent on to introducing Slavic folk elements into his music. Here, he extends the traditional quartet ensemble to including a second viola and cello in order to create the rich tone colour and vibrant sound of the highly-coloured thematic material. A work characterized by its sunny atmosphere and spontaneous appeal on the concert platform, the Jerusalem performance, (unlike so many “muscular” performances of the work), led by Yuka Tsuboi’s exquisitely expressive playing, shone in freshness and warmth of sound, delicacy and elegance. Without detracting from the buoyancy and high spirits of the stream of Slavic folk dances, the subtlety displayed by all six artists guaranteed transparency of textures, highlighting the numerous filigree melodic lines, their strategic timing and collaboration resulting in beguiling expression of Dvořák’s inventive contrapuntal treatment and imaginative harmonies and reminding the listener that this colourful, vigorous folk idiom does also give a voice to occasional dreaminess and languor.

Photo: Christian Jungwirth

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