Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Israel Brahms Quartet and pianist Ron Regev in an all-Brahms program at the Eden-Tamir Music Center

On Saturday March 19th the Israel Haydn Quartet, with guest pianist Ron Regev, performed an all-Brahms concert in the Best of Chamber Music series at the Eden-Tamir Music Center (Ein Kerem, Jerusalem). The Israel Haydn Quartet, established in 2010, performs regularly in Israel and has also performed in Seoul, South Korea. The quartet performs the best of repertoire, but, as its name suggests, it has a great love for the music of Haydn, “father of the string quartet”. In 2014, the Haydn String Quartet received a grant from the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport to record its first CD – three Haydn quartets. Members of the quartet are violinists Eyal Kless (founder of the Israel Haydn Quartet) and Svetlana Simannovsky, violist Miriam Mansharov and ‘cellist Shira Mani.

It seems Johannes Brahms destroyed twelve or so string quartets before publishing his two opus 51 quartets, premiered in 1873, when the composer was 40.  In which case, String Quartet No.2 in A-minor opus 51 cannot be rightly considered Brahms’ earliest work of the genre.  (A third string quartet, opus 67, was first performed in 1876.) Eyal Kless spoke of Quartet no.1 as being the most coherent of the three.  Brahms dedicated it to his friend, Viennese surgeon and amateur string player Theodor Billroth, who referred to the first two string quartets as “a whole lot of beauty in a compact form”. The opening theme of the first subject a-f-a-e may refer to Hungarian violinist, composer and conductor Joseph Joachim’s motto “frei aber einsam” (free but alone).  Although of a routine construction, the players gave the work a sense of Brahms’ character throughout – his characteristic brooding, but also his solid richness of texture, singing melodic lines, the seamless melodic flow of his writing, warmth of sound and, of course, the composer’s reference to dance music. Kless led his players in a performance that never lagged, that was stylish and energetic, coloured with Brahmsian intensity and nostalgia but also with lyricism and lightness.

Pianist Ron Regev joined the Israel Haydn Quartet in Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F-minor opus 34. A graduate of the Samuel Rubin Academy, Tel Aviv, where Regev studied under Professor Emanuel Krasovsky, the artist then took masters and doctoral studies at the Juilliard School of Music (New York), studying piano with Jerome Lowenthal, chamber music with Joseph Kalichstein and serving as a member of faculty. Performing worldwide and the winner of several international awards and competitions, today Regev is chairman of the Keyboard Faculty at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance and chief musician at Tonara, an Israeli hi-tech company specializing in combining music notation and cutting-edge technology.

Brahms’ String Quintet, originally conceived as a string quintet with two ‘cello parts (now lost), was then rewritten as a sonata for two pianos, before its final transformation as the Piano Quintet in 1864, the most significant work of the composer’s early years in Vienna and in which piano and strings strike a fine balance.  As in the opus 51 quartet No.2, the artists went for beauty of tone, keeping a safe distance from the turgid or athletic playing so often heard in performance of Brahms works. In playing that was focused, alert and profound, there was much skilful blending and eye contact. In music that asks to be expressive, they brought out its temperament, its energy, its secret moments, its outbursts and the general melancholy underlying the work.  In the second movement (Andante, un poco adagio) Regev used small hesitations to express the movement’s poignancy and fragility. The performance set before the audience the inner workings of Brahms’ mind in playing that was rich, intimate and exciting, playing never overstepping the confines of good taste.

No comments: