Dallas — If Sunday afternoon’s concert at Dallas City Performance Hall was a harbinger of Chamber Music International’s season to come, then we can expect very good things indeed. The performance, like many of CMI’s programs, includes musicians who do not often play together, but each of whom is an expert chamber musician in his or her own right. CMI, under director Philip Lewis, is currently in its 31st season, and presents some programs at Dallas City Performance Hall and some at St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church in Richardson.
The program presented three delightful pieces, at least one of which, the Mozart Duo for Violin and Viola in G Major, K. 423, is not played especially frequently. It is a mostly lighthearted romp for these instruments, the timbres of which balance each other ideally. Violist Che-Yen Chen, principal violist of the San Diego Symphony, brought a lush, delicious viola sound to the proceedings, while violinist Stephanie Jeong matched this richness with her own warm tone, especially notable in her lower register. The duo exhibited carefully honed and well-matched phrasing and musical ideas. This was Mozart as Mozart should be played—meticulous but not fussy.
Second on the program was the Arensky Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 32. For whatever reason, this piece has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years, although most consider Arensky to be a relatively minor Russian Romantic composer who is better known as a teacher to Rachmaninoff and Scriabin, among others. Still, this was at least the third performance of the piece on local programs in the past couple of seasons. It is a lovely piece, to be sure: especially, the charming ricochet theme in the second movement Scherzo and the third movement Elegia with its gorgeous opening cello solo are well worth multiple listens.
The musicians here, too, were stellar. Frequent CMI performer and local favorite Cho-Liang Lin was the violinist in the trio, joined by cellist Clive Greensmith, formerly of the Tokyo String Quartet, and pianist Qian Wu. Their ensemble was tight enough that a listener could easily forget that these musicians do not play together every day.
After intermission, all five musicians converged to perform César Franck’s Piano Quintet in F Minor. They managed the necessary intensity for this passionate, dramatic piece, while seldom sounding forced or compressed. The Franck was a fine close to a fine concert, and bodes well for the season ahead.