The second season of Music for Mischa Concerts--named after the late Mischa Schneider, longtime cellist of the Budapest Quartet--opened boldly at Gindi Auditorium on Sunday afternoon with two of the grandest and most demanding works in the chamber repertory: Mozart’s Divertimento in E-flat, K. 563, and Schubert’s String Quintet in C, D. 956.
Neither is to be approached lightly--although the Mozartean spirit must be kept airborne--and neither succeeds in performance through good intentions alone. Fortunately, this blessedly long and nourishing program gave as much pleasure to the ear by way of technical accomplishment as it did to the mind through the players’ probing intelligence.
Mozart’s Divertimento, in which the composer created with a single violin, viola and cello a richness of sonority and emotion equal to that found in his greatest string quartets and quintets, was dispatched with tremendous brio and linear strength by violinist Miwako Watanabe, violist Brian Dembow and cellist Robert Martin.
Still, one had to regret one miscalculation: The miraculous Andante movement--a theme-and-variations structure rich even by Mozartean standards--was initiated at such a brisk clip that it had nowhere to go, leaving its several glorious climaxes unrealized.
For the vast Schubert Quintet, the aforementioned trio was joined by violinist Joseph Genualdi (Watanabe moving to second violin) and cellist Bonnie Hampton (with Martin playing second).
While one remembers outstanding readings of this work here in recent seasons, none comes to mind that so completely combined passion with textural clarity and, indeed, impeccable order.
And while all five played their parts to perfection, it would be difficult not to single out for special praise the sweet-toned strength of Genualdi’s leadership or the unforced sonority of Hampton’s cello, the ensemble’s velvet anchor.