Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ariel String Quartet and Roman Rabinovich at YMCA Jerusalem

On a balmy Jerusalem evening you decide to go to a chamber music concert to hear works of Schubert, Beethoven and Brahms. You are inspired by the thrilling and profound performance and then you read in the program that all the players are in their 20’s. Rub your eyes (or your ears) but that was the case May 27th 2009 at the 11th concert of the Jerusalem Music Centre’s 2008-2009 concert series at the Mary Nathaniel Golden Hall of Friendship at the Jerusalem YMCA, where the Ariel String Quartet was joined by pianist Roman Rabinovich.

Members of the Ariel Quartet - violinists Gershon Gerchikov and Sasha Kazovsky, violist Sergey Taransky and ‘cellist Amit Even-Tov – have been playing together for over ten years, thanks to the JMC’s program youth training which nurtures promising young musicians. After completing studies at the Jerusalem Academy of Music, the four string players moved to the New England Conservatory to continue their professional training. They perform widely, are recipients of prestigious prizes and bursaries and serve the community by performing in schools and senior citizen centres.

Franz Schubert’s (1797-1828) String Quartet no. 13 in A minor D. 804, “Rosamunde” (1824) is alive with quotations and references to other works by the composer, making direct connections to his Lied style. With Sasha Kazovsky as first violinist, the quartet sets the scene in the nostalgic opening Allegro ma non troppo, pacing each gesture, from delicate threads of sound to wrenching, vehement statements. Through the delicate and intensely singing second movement (that utilizes the “Rosamunde” theme from Schubert’s incidental music) to the Minuetto-Allegro third movement, the players allow each gesture to dictate its own tempo, presenting the melancholy of a Schubert in the shadow of his fatal illness. The final movement, Allegro moderato, provides relief from the sadness of the former movements, changing to a dancelike mood, with the quartet using rubato to give it descriptive flexibility.

Gershon Gerchikov played first violin in Ludwig van Beethoven’s (1770-1827) String Quartet in F minor opus 95, “Serioso” (1810), a stark and disquieting piece dating from the end of Beethoven’s middle period. From the first note, the players coordinate with precision to present Beethoven’s stormy, moody temperament in a collage of abrupt, short themes, silences and strange chromatic whims. The ‘cello opens the second movement in a more tranquil vein, its solitary threads building up to a highly contrapuntal texture, with calm moments never far from the composer’s tendency to gravitate back to his agitated inner existence. All movements belie sadness and solitary thoughts, even the final more energetic Larghetto espressivo- Allegretto agitato. This is an emotionally challenging and complicated piece for young people to tackle but the quartet certainly read into its issues, going for brilliant performance and fine musicianship.

Pianist Roman Rabinovich (b.1985, Uzbekistan), at present studying at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, performs in Europe, the USA and in Israel and is the recipient of many prizes. He also paints and exhibits his artwork. Rabinovich joined the Ariel Quartet to perform Johannes Brahms’ (1833-1897) Piano Quintet in F minor opus 34. Originally composed as a string quintet in 1862, it was rewritten as a sonata for two pianos before finally being refashioned into a piano quintet in 1864. In this performance, Gerchikov took the first violin part. The many brash moments, alternating with lush lyricism bristling with unexpected harmonic changes, give the listener a picture of the young Brahms and his temperament. The players give the work fullness, contrast and vitality, playing out the dialogue between piano and strings, its intensity the result of the forthright approach of these young artists. Their performance leaves no room for compromise, their vision of the piece’s moods and searching, however, giving a sense of structural unity, heard in the falling semitone motif running throughout the piece. Rabinovich is a pianist to be reckoned with; using technical brilliance and a keen ear, he mixes and blends colors with his fellow players, the results of which constitute a fiery and exciting performance.

No comments: