Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Music for five, played winningly by six
October 12, 2010
The San Antonio Chamber Music
Society opened its 68th season, Oct. 10 in Temple Beth-El, with a visit
by members of that other Chamber Music Society, the one attached to
Lincoln Center in New York.
The program held late-in-life quintets by W.A. Mozart and Johannes
Brahms and a youthful but altogether masterful quintet by Felix
The apex was Brahms’s Clarinet Quintet in B Minor, with the
distinguished clarinetist David Shifrin joined by violinists Ani and
Ida Kavafian, violist Paul Neubauer and cellist Nicholas
In the main, the music is lyrical and ruminative; even the closing
moments ditch the customary flash in favor of quiet reflection. Shifrin
played the leading role with a burnished, warm, satiny tone that tended
to blend into the creamy strings texture around him. Only in the
central section of the adagio, when the music takes on a faintly Gypsy
coloration, did Shifrin adopt a more aggressive, almost bluesy timbre.
A gorgeous performance all around.
The teen-aged Mendelssohn was
feeling his oats as an inventive weaver of consistently interesting
counterpoint in his Viola Quintet in A Minor, Op. 18. The performance,
with Neubauer taking the leading viola part and Mark Holloway in the
second position, was lively, unified and crisply rendered. Canellakis
contributed some rhythmic punch. Ani Kavafian, taking the first violin
part, projected a firm, richly textured tone.
In Mozart’s String Quintet in E-flat, K. 614, Ida Kavafian and Holloway
took the first violin and viola parts, respectively. The sound was very
warm, the performance vigorous if sometimes a little loose.
Coda: I note with interest that
the Lincoln Center troupe’s tour is supported in part by a grant from
the Lila Acheson and DeWitt Wallace Endowment Fund. You probably are
aware that the Wallaces founded Readers Digest. You might not know that
DeWitt Wallace was the son of James Wallace, president of Macalester
College in the early 20th century. While Wallace fils was a student at
that worthy institution in St. Paul, Minn., he cajoled a cow (or so the
story goes) to climb the stairs to the chapel on the third floor of Old
Main, the very building where, some years later, your faithful scribe
studied (or so the story goes) political science and philosophy.