Dallas — The Blue Candlelight Music Series concerts, held at the home of Richard and Enike Schultze, are always distinctively entertaining. Artistic Director Baya Kakouberi often makes a point of featuring women composers and women performers, including at the March 10 concert. In addition to performances of the traditional “Three Bs,” Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, this concert included the less familiar music of American composer Amy Beach. Kakouberi briefly outlined Beach’s biography for the audience, effectively contextualizing the music we were about to hear. (Like Fanny Mendelssohn, Amy Beach was discouraged from having a musical career, despite her prodigious talent, because of her gender.)
The concert began with a student performance by Quinlan Facey, who is an undergraduate at Eastman School of Music and a former student of Kakouberi’s. His performance of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 27 in E Minor showed considerable promise.
Performers for the remainder of the program included pianist Jihye Chang, cellist Bion Tsang, and Dallas Symphony Orchestra clarinetist Paul Garner. Bach’s Sonata for Flute and Harpsichord in E-flat Major, as arranged for clarinet and piano, began the program. The two musicians struggled a bit with balance, as is sometimes an issue in that room. The Steinway’s sound is bold, and in a relatively small performance space, can easily overmatch nearly any other instrument. Of the three movements, which are marked Allegro moderato, Siciliano, and Allegro, the last was certainly the most pleasurable to listen to, lively and fun. The other Bach on the program was Bion Tsang’s rendering of the Prelude from the Cello Suite No. 1. This is some of Bach’s most famous music, but one of the many fascinating aspects of these suites is the variety of ways they can be (well) played. Tsang’s interpretation, at a faster tempo than we sometimes hear, made string crossings into near double stops, much as they might have been in Bach’s time. It worked beautifully, so much so that I would have very much enjoyed hearing the entire suite.
The two works for clarinet trio, Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11, and Brahms’ Clarinet Trio Op. 144, had similar issues: in both, the piano and the clarinet significantly overbalanced the cello. Tsang’s sound is plenty big, as he demonstrated in the movement from the Bach suite; it’s just that no cello has a chance when pitted against a piano and a clarinet, unless the latter two are extraordinarily mindful of balance. Still, these were good, enjoyable performances of works less commonly heard than pieces for more conventional ensembles.
Three short pieces by Amy Beach served as the centerpieces, quite literally, of the program. Beach composed extensively for piano and for voice and wrote a dozen or so chamber pieces for other instruments. One of these is the Mazurka for violin and piano, which she later arranged for cello and piano, the version we heard Sunday evening. This was a well-conceived performance that could have used one more rehearsal to firm up ensemble. A piano piece arranged for clarinet and piano, “Rosemary and Rue” from Grandmother’s Garden was a charming little piece, well-played, and reminded one inevitably of poor Ophelia: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance…. There’s rue for you; and here’s some for me…You must wear your rue with a difference.” Last of the Beach pieces was the impassioned “Dreaming,” from Four Sketches for Piano. Jihye Chang’s bold rendering invoked, perhaps, the stifling reality of being a woman in Beach’s world, a reality escapable only in dreams.