After the soft notes that close Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet faded away, a good seven seconds elapsed before the applause began, long and enthusiastic. It illustrated how poignant and utterly moving a performance it was, on this fourth program of the Chamber Music/LA Festival at the Japan American Theatre.
One of Brahms’ last chamber works, the Quintet in B-minor is one of his most intimate and probing. The five musicians showed a depth of feeling and dramatic intensity Thursday evening that literally captivated the listener from beginning to end. The music exhibited a wonderful sense of direction, combining a unanimous interpretive statement with apparent spontaneity.
And with no loss in precision. One heard the highest level of technical fluency, perfect balances, and a rhythmically exact ensemble. Clarinetist Charles Neidich commands not only extraordinary control and a rich and seductive tone, but the ability to deliver long, exquisitely shaded, uninterrupted lines, accomplished by truly effective circular breathing. The string players--violinists Yukiko Kamei and Paul Rosenthal, violist Milton Thomas and cellist Nathaniel Rosen--brought equally polished musicianship and lyricism to their playing.
A performance of Bartok’s “Contrasts” fully lived up to its title. In an account marked by striking sensitivity and nearly boundless enthusiasm, and one which effectively contrasted the frenetic dance rhythms with somber melodies, Neidich was joined by violinist Christiaan Bor and pianist Jerome Lowenthal.
Beethoven’s Quintet in C, Opus 29 found violinists Rosenthal and Bor, violists Thomas and Marcus Thompson and cellist Jeffrey Solow in fine fettle, precise and articulate. Though the five played with clarity, precision and a good deal of energy, this reading showed very little subtlety and lacked any feeling of repose.