Richardson — I have seldom heard a concert that left me with more mixed feelings than Saturday’s Chamber Music International concert at Richardson’s St. Barnabas Presbyterian Church.
First, the good: Alexandre Moutouzkine’s playing is intellectual without being cold, precise without being fussy, interesting without being odd. Moutouzkine has performed with Chamber Music International before, and is always a welcome guest here in Dallas.
This time, his performance of Schumann’s Carnaval was all these good things and more. This utterly transfixing piece has 20 numbered sections, plus two that are unnumbered. Each section also has a name: from Schumann’s own alter egos Eusebius and Florestan to Chopin and Paganini to Chiarina (Clara Wieck, Schumann’s student and future wife) and Estrella (his then-fiancée, Ernestine von Fricken). This assortment of seemingly unrelated parts is united by repetition of the notes A, E-flat, C, and B, which in German notation are A-S-C-H: a musical cryptogram with several significant meanings for Schumann. Moutouzkine explained all of this critical information in charming remarks preceding his performance, enhancing the listeners’ experience.
The remainder of the program was more problematic. The first piece on the program, Mozart’s Duo in B-flat for Violin and Viola, K. 424, was performed by violinist Paul Rosenthal and violist Atar Arad. While Arad, also a CMI regular, has a gorgeous viola sound, and the piece itself is terrific, Saturday’s performance was beset by pitch problems and some sliding shifts from Rosenthal that were not in keeping with Classical style.
Unfortunately, problems continued into the Brahms Quintet for Piano and Strings in F Minor, Op. 34, the final piece on Saturday’s program. Here, Moutouzkine, Arad, and Rosenthal were joined by CMI Artistic Director Philip Lewis on violin and Jungshin Lim Lewis on cello. It was delightful to hear the Lewises perform on one of the programs they work so hard to put together, and the Brahms is a marvelous piece. Still, pitch continued to be a problem, and balance was often piano-heavy.
The Schumann alone, though, made this a performance well worth attending.