New York Chamber Music Festival
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The New York Chamber Music Festival takes place in September of every year, at Symphony Space (Peter Jay Sharp Theatre). Legendary opera stars Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey are on the Advisory Board, and so is world's #1 double bassist Gary Karr, while participants include pianist Pascal Rogé, soprano Carole Farley, violinist Rachel Barton Pine, pianist Shai Wosner, cellist Christine Walevska, pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, Amerigo Trio, New York Piano Quartet, Turtle Island Quartet and musi...
JOHN CAGE AT 100! which was the opening concert of the 2012 New York Chamber Music Festival, has been selected by the New York Magazine as one of the Top 10 Classical Music Performances of 2012!

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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 11:53 PM - 18 Sep 2010 | Applause: 0


Music Review by ALLAN KOZINN

Now in its second season, the New York Chamber Music Festival at Symphony Space has expanded impressively. In a seven-day run that began last Friday, the festival is offering 13 concerts, up from 6 last year.
Among the performers are musicians from the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, as well as several soloists and ensembles. The repertory includes a bit of everything: standard fare, rarities (piano quartets by Korngold and Joseph Marx), contemporary works and jazz transcriptions.

The pianist Pascal Rogé, one of the strongest draws on the roster, opened his Monday evening program of French music with an alluring oddity, Saint-Saëns’s Scherzo for Two Pianos (Op. 87), performed with his wife, Ami Rogé. Saint-Saëns gave both players plenty to do in this playful work: a long, shapely melody will sometimes leap between keyboards and sometimes sing on one while the other decorates it with sparkling filigree. An evocative chromaticism keeps the work’s harmonic core lively and slightly off kilter.

Mr. Rogé was joined by Samuel Magill, the associate principal cellist at the Met, for a rendering of Poulenc’s Cello Sonata (Op. 143) that was admirable for its detailed and finely polished interplay and for the power and richness that both musicians brought to the plangent finale. But that opulence was long in coming. In the work’s first three movements, Mr. Magill clothed his otherwise unimpeachable reading in a dry sound that seemed all the more colorless when set against Mr. Rogé’s more vivid playing.

No such complaints could be lodged against Elmira Darvarova, who played Debussy’s Violin Sonata. Ms. Darvarova, a former concertmaster at the Met and the director of the festival, couched this colorful score in a sweet, flexible tone and reacted deftly to Debussy’s idiosyncratic character shifts, like the leap from Gallic urbanity to a lively flamenco figure at the end of the first movement. She also gave an admirably speedy but clearly articulated account of the finale.

Though Mr. Rogé proved an adept and considerate chamber player, he was most fully in his element in the Ravel Sonatine, the only solo work on the program. Using a touch that combined gracefulness and power, Mr. Rogé gave the score a supple reading in which Ravel’s right-hand melodies floated freely and with an almost songlike quality over the accompanying figuration, and in which even the densest rolling figuration had an inviting transparency. In the finale, particularly, he gave the music an organic ebb and flow.

To close the program, Mr. Rogé, Ms. Darvarova and Mr. Magill gave a fluid, finely balanced and sharply accented performance of Ravel’s Piano Trio.

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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 11:50 PM - 18 Sep 2010 | Applause: 0


SHAI WOSNER, Piano and HYUNAH YU, Soprano

Published: September 16, 2010

The accomplished young Israeli pianist Shai Wosner, who performs regularly with chamber music ensembles in the United States and Europe, has a new recording that fascinatingly juxtaposes works by Brahms and Schoenberg. On Wednesday at Symphony Space, as part of the weeklong New York Chamber Music Festival, Mr. Wosner again showed a knack for drawing connections between composers.

For this rewarding program, lasting just over an hour, Mr. Wosner began with Schubert’s Sonata in D (D. 850), sometimes called the “Gasteiner” because it was composed during three weeks in 1825 when Schubert was staying in Bad Gastein, an Austrian spa town. Then Mr. Wosner was joined by Hyunah Yu, a gifted young South Korean-born soprano, in six Mahler songs from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn.”

Before the Mahler group, having just played the sonata, Mr. Wosner spoke about the links he saw between these seemingly disparate composers. The song genre was central to them, he said, and they shared powerful attachments to both the idyllic and the tragic realms of life.

Mr. Wosner went further, playing themes and phrases from the sonata just heard and pointing out similar bits in the Mahler songs. He did not claim that Mahler was actually quoting Schubert, but the correspondences were striking.

Mr. Wosner gave a lively and sensitive account of the demanding Schubert sonata. The buoyant first movement shifts between bursts of fanfarelike themes and rippling passagework. Though Mr. Wosner took a brisk tempo, his playing was lithe and articulate. The breathless energy of his conception was captivating, though he could occasionally have taken just a moment extra to set up the next episode or phrase.

The second movement is marked Con Moto (With Motion), and Mr. Wosner played it that way: though he was always sensitive to passages of harmonic and expressive intensity, his ambling pace never allowed the poignancy to take over. He deftly dispatched the feisty scherzo and ended with a supple account of the dancing rondo, played with impressive lightness and clarity.

Ms. Yu’s lyric soprano voice is light and youthful, yet its warmth and creamy richness make it well suited to Mahler.

The resonances of Schubert in the Mahler songs came through vividly in these original versions for voice and piano. Most of the Mahler songs, including these six from “Des Knaben Wunderhorn,” are best known from their orchestrated versions. Ms. Yu and Mr. Wosner ended with “Das himmlische Leben,” widely familiar as the final movement of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony. Increasingly, I find the versions for voice and piano more direct, subtle and intimate, especially in performances as beautiful as this one.

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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 11:46 PM - 18 Sep 2010 | Applause: 0

Pascal Rogé et al @ New York Chamber Music Festival

Tuesday, 14 September 2010 09:57
byGene Gaudette

The "official" music season usually does not start in New York until a couple of weeks after Labor Day, but there is still plenty to see and hear -- and one of the best places to jump the gun is at Symphony Space, where the New York Chamber Music Festival has already launched their second season. Artistic and Executive Director Elmira Darvarova and her circle of artistic collaborators have again assembled a wide-ranging series of programs spanning a broad range of chamber repertoire.

Slower-than-expected recuperation from nose surgery forceded me to beg off the first few events in the festival, including performances by cellist Christine Walevska and New York Philharmonic principal trumpet Philip Smith, but I loaded up on analgesics late Monday afternoon in preparation for a program of French chamber and piano music featuring Pascal Rogé. He is best known on this side of the Atlantic for his deservedly acclaimed recordings of French piano music for Decca, but I also like his more recent recordings for Onyx and Oehms, particularly the Gershwin and Ravel concerto SACDs on the latter label with the RSO Wien conducted by Bertrand de Billy providing idiomatic, spirited accompaniment.

Symphony Space is, to be polite, not exactly the most richly reverberant venue in Manhattan; the front rows provide an intimate atmosphere with good sightlines, though the acoustics favor players further back on stage.

The program opened with Saint-Saëns's charming Scherzo for Two Pianos, Op.87, with Rogé's wife Ami on second piano. This is music with one foot unashamedly in the salon and the the other in the conservatory. Saint-Saëns's detractors often carp about his music's superficiality, but with the Rogés at the keyboard it is impossible not to succumb to this music's charming melodies and balance of craftsmanship and wit.

Poulenc's Cello Sonata, written in the late 1940s, is slightly craggier than his earlier solo sonatas and chamber music, but retains the composer's charming style that is infused with just a touch of the Parisian music hall and jazz. Cellist Samuel Magill's lean sound and Rogé's rich palette sometimes seemed at odds, but did serve to shine a spotlight on the hairpin-turn changes in timbre and articulation. In the second movement Cavatine and the Finale, sets of themes sounded strikingly as if they could have been lifted from the chamber music of Prokofiev -- then instantly morphed back into something unmistakably French.

Darvarova and Rogé took an equally daring approach to Debussy's Violin Sonata. Stripped of romantic trappings and sentiment, Darvarova conjured an amazing array of timbres and sounds, consistently punctuated and supported by Rogé's transparent and dynamic pianism. The work seemed more a gateway to Messiaen and an avant-garde generation to come than a culmination of Debussy's oeuvre.

Don't let the title "Sonatine" fool you -- Maurice Ravel's short three-movement work opened the second half of the recital with an abundance of energy and color, distilling the composer's piano oeuvre into a pointed and compelling work. Rogé delivered the final Animé with a particularly impressive balance of color and pianistic control, unfolding with irresistable momentum in almost a single phrase.

The program concluded with a strongly expressive and, as with the Debussy, forward-looking vision of Ravel's enormously demanding Trio. The unanimity of Rogé, Darvarova and Magill was impressive, as was the clear but unexaggerated use of string instrument timbre. I can't recall hearing the Passacaille played with this much potency, and the daunting Finale generated not only goosebumps but an enormous -- and gratifyingly warm -- volume of sound.

The festival has scored a real coup with the participation of Pascal Rogé. He will be one of the performers in tonight's program, including woirks by Schumann, Brahms, David Amram and Paul Chihara. Miss it at your own peril!
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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 5:04 PM - 26 Jan 2010 | Applause: 2
The New York Chamber Music Festival has commissioned a new chamber music work to be composed by Paul Chihara for the 2010 edition of the festival. The new composition will be for Flute, Violin, Cello and Piano. Its world premiere will take place on September 14, 2010 at Symphony Space (Sharp Theatre) in New York, during the 2010 New York Chamber Music Festival.
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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 7:38 PM - 12 Dec 2009 | Applause: 2


Feature Article by William Zagorski

Unearthing Buried Musical Treasures

In Fanfare 33:2, I favorably reviewed a Naxos release (8.570928) containing performances of Franco Alfano’s Cello Sonata and Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Piano. It was my first exposure to Alfano, a composer mostly remembered outside of Italy for his controversial completion of Puccini’s Turandot. I found those two chamber works exquisitely crafted and certainly worthy of inclusion in our universal chamber-music canon. They were graced with an Italianate sense of melody, underpinned by a subtle, French-like, harmonic structure. Most important, Alfano demonstrated a strong musical profile. His music cannot be mistaken for that of any other composer. The performances were technically superb, both gutsy and nuanced, and musically insightful, making this disc one to which I will return time and time again for the sheer pleasure of it.

I have long contended that our standard repertoire represents merely the proverbial tip of a vast and never-ending iceberg. Works are included or excluded from it, more often than not, for extra-musical reasons. Alfano’s career took a turn for the worse when Toscanini damned his completion of Turandot. The fact that Alfano enjoyed cordial relations with Mussolini, as did his compatriot, Gian Francesco Malipiero, also didn’t help matters much with the avowed anti-Fascist Toscanini, or with so many concert managers in the post-World War II world. Add to this that here in America, concert managers are generally loathe to include pieces on their programs that have little or no “name recognition.” They resort to statistical analyses proffered by consultants who define “the 100 works that America loves best” to the exclusion of a virtual, and ever growing, musical universe. As a result, contemporary composers suffer along with the composers of so many extraordinary musical works created in the past. In my radio work at WWFM, a station that allows its music hosts to program their own hours on the air, I and several of my colleagues are committed to exploring as much of this unbekannt territory as possible, and the audience response has been unabashedly positive. We now have a reputation, worldwide, thanks to Internet streaming, for being an outlet where one may encounter music heard nowhere else.

Enter Elmira Darvarova, a violinist who has served as concertmaster with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the Grant Park Orchestra, among others, and is currently executive director of the New York Chamber Music Festival, and cellist Samuel Magill. From the evidence on that Naxos recording, they are indeed uncannily well matched as chamber players.

The game plan for this article was that I would attend their September 16th concert at Symphony Space in New York, attend a reception following it, and interview both Darvarova and Magill afterward. I arrived with my music-loving brother in tow. The program consisted of Beethoven’s String Trio in C Minor, (with the utterly simpatico violist Ronald Carbone, who played the rest of the program), Eugene Ysaÿe’s expressionistically knotty Trio “La Chimay,” Charles Marie Widor’s Piano Quartet in A Minor, (with pianist Linda Hall added to the ensemble), and Gernot Wolfgang’s jazzy Metamorphosis for violin, viola, cello, and piano.

Hearing Darvarova and Magill (along with pianist Scott Dunn) on that Naxos release was one thing. Watching Darvarova and Magill, et alia, perform is quite another. Having attended many chamber-music concerts in my lifetime, I found Darvarova enchantingly charismatic. Her focus and energy were mesmerizing. Across from her sat Samuel Magill, quietly and utterly poised as he matched her phrasing and articulation to perfection, and underpinned it with unerring intonation and, where called for, boldly ravishing tone. This was fine ensemble playing indeed. The performance of the Ysaÿe Trio was a particularly gala event, in that Darvarova had invited the descendants of the Ysaÿe clan to attend, and they did, from both Belgium and Canada. I found the performance of Widor’s Piano Quartet revelatory. Having known this composer only from his organ symphonies, I was unprepared for what I heard. In harmonic language, it was quite post-Romantic in the manner of Fauré—full of ravishing harmonies and beautiful unisons in the strings. Near the end of its slow movement, Darvarova et alia actually executed perfectly realized portamentos, and the result was stunning. (As a defunct violinist, I must admit that I miss that now largely discredited device these days, and maybe that’s why I so often return to so many of my ancient pre-stereo recordings of standard orchestral repertoire.) Everything about that concert was executed on a very high level. Some of the insightfully cogent program notes were authored by Gernot Wolfgang (b. 1957), whose Metamorphosis provided a bracing finale to the festivities.

During the reception I had the honor of sitting next to Samuel Magill’s father and his wife, both from North Carolina, and could probe him as to how his son came to the cello and had ascended to such heights. It was, we concluded, all about empowerment. Our children merely come through us, and if we can see their highly individual talents and foster them, there is no limit to what they can achieve. I got to meet with a few of Ysaÿe’s descendents, among them a high-school-aged girl who was an enthusiastic violinist in her school orchestra (what a pedigree!). In the best sense of the phrase, the beat goes on. I also got to meet with composer Gernot Wolfgang and with David Burnett, the lead violin instructor of The Harlem School of the Arts. He and I both agreed that classical music is not something that was, but something that is. I wholeheartedly thanked him for his efforts toward insuring its immortality. At the close of the reception, which ran far past midnight, both Darvarova and Magill were too exhausted to do the interview. They still had tomorrow’s demanding concert to rehearse, so I resorted to e-mailing my questions to both of them a few days later. Here are the results of that virtual interview.

W. Z.: Having heard you on your Naxos Alfano release and at the Symphony Space concert a few days ago, your wondrous feeling for ensemble give and take, I would like to know if you can tell me how you came to know each other. More to the point, how did you find that you were, musically speaking, such kindred spirits? You play together as if you are one.

E. D.: I have loved Sam Magill’s playing since the day I first met him, which was at his audition for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. I was on the audition committee for associate principal cello, and we had no idea who the candidates were, since the auditions were behind a screen. Sam’s great tone and fine musicianship had immediately impressed me. Later that day, when Sam was announced as the audition winner and we all got to shake hands with him as our new associate principal cellist, I noticed immediately his pleasant and kind personality, and knew from this moment that we would be friends. His particular sound has forever appealed to me. To phrase the music in a way that matches his (including shifts and slides) is very fulfilling. The abundant unisons that we encountered in the Alfano Concerto not only gave us an opportunity to match our timing, but also presented us with a forum to express how unanimous we are on sound production, vibrato speed, and amplitude of phrasing. I believe that the two of us inspire each other all the time, so to play as together as possible is not really any effort; it is a joy. Needless to say, we are also very close friends, getting along beautifully, and very attuned to each other. I believe that we are “kindred spirits” not just musically, but in many other ways.

S. M.: Elmira and I first met in 1991 in my first season at the Met. We worked closely because she was concertmaster and I was associate principal cellist, just three seats away. I loved her playing right from the start, and realized we played our instruments in a similar style. We draw the bow deeply into the string and utilize a romantic, somewhat operatic style. Our training is deeply rooted in the glorious past, my teachers all having studied with either Emanuel Feuermann or Gregor Piatigorsky. Some years after she left the Met, I was programming the Korngold Suite and right away thought of Elmira, because I knew she would be ideal. When I started working on the Alfano project, I again asked Elmira to collaborate with Scott Dunn and me on the Concerto, because no one else could do it justice as could she.

W. Z.: As a champion of neglected and totally worthy repertoire myself, I’m eager to know what drove you two to take up the cause?

S. M.: My passion for neglected Romantic music was inspired by the series of recordings and festivals organized by the pianist Raymond Lewenthal in the late 1960s. I bought his recording of the Rubinstein D-Minor Piano Concerto while still in high school and I began a lifelong pursuit of detective work to unearth many such scores. The way I discovered the Alfano Sonata and Concerto is that, while playing Turandot so often at the Met, I had always admired his masterful ending of the opera. I wondered if this composer wrote any cello or chamber music. Then I found the Sonata in the Library of Congress and immediately fell in love with it. After reading through it for the first time, I realized the Sonata’s profundity and otherworldly vision. It was like no other sonata I had ever heard, though it has many influences, from Ravel and Puccini to more modern composers, as well. Then, what to pair it with for a CD? I found the Piano Quintet to be cut from the same cloth, so when I bought the music for the Concerto, I found that its neo-Classicism seemed a delightful contrast. Perhaps later we can pair the Quintet with the Violin Sonata. And his three string quartets need to be recorded, too.

I have, over the course of my career, performed the works of Pierné, Ropartz, d’Indy, Jongen, Pierre de Breville, Florent Schmitt, Godard, Widor, Charles Cadman, Cyril Scott, Stanford, Ireland, Rubinstein, Laszlo Lajtha, and many others. I also recorded the world premiere CD of Vernon Duke’s Cello Concerto, paired with his Piano Concerto, both played and orchestrated by Scott Dunn. The Cello Concerto was written for Gregor Piatigorsky in 1945 and premiered by him with the Boston S.O., but he never recorded it, though there exists a live performance with Piatigorsky and Koussevitsky. However, the last three minutes are sadly missing.

E. D.: Recently someone said to me, after looking at the programs for the New York Chamber Music Festival: “Apparently you don’t mind programming neglected works by forgotten composers. There are so many, and all of them are waiting for someone like you to give them another chance.” I am actually horrified that there isn’t enough time and opportunities to present more of the “neglected but totally worthy” works. A lifetime of discovering and presenting neglected but worthy compositions will never be enough for such a cause. Even 300 lifetimes will never be enough. There is so much beautiful music out there waiting to be discovered and performed.

On another note, I feel that programming the Trio “Le Chimay” by Ysaÿe was, in a way, my duty—having studied with one of Ysaÿe’s most prominent students, Josef Gingold, who, all those decades ago, had presented in Brussels the world premiere of Ysaÿe’s Solo Sonata No. 3, “Ballade.” Last year, while presenting—together with Ronald Carbone and Samuel Magill—the American premiere of Ysaÿe’s Trio, “Le Chimay,” I thought of Mr. Gingold and was imagining, in front of me, his great approving smile. Neither Ysaÿe, nor Gingold ever heard a performance of the Trio, “Le Chimay,” yet it lives—in this century—and it is now being discovered by more and more musicians, generating more and more performances. I felt privileged to present it at the festival, and honored to perform it in the presence of several Ysaÿe family members, who had traveled to New York just for this occasion.

W. Z.: (to Elmira): How does your role as artistic director of the New York Chamber Music Festival fit into your future plans? Currently in America, chamber music is a hard sell. I’ve been a fan of it for over 30 years, but America is, truly, in a disadvantaged state. Music education in the public school system has been eviscerated for years. We have no Leonard Bernstein who, in my lifetime, took the great unwashed and informed it as to the glories of music. So, where do you feel that you fit into this continuum?

E. D.: The New York Chamber Music Festival, which I recently founded, is already respected and followed with interest by a number of musicians and reviewers. One of the participants called it “historic,” and we all devoted tons of rehearsal and preparation time. It seemed like the festival events were unstoppable, and no casualties could stand in the way. Rachel Barton Pine had endured serious surgery just days before her concert. Sam Magill had barely recovered from an incapacitating hand injury. Pascal Rogé had traveled from Japan only hours before his festival appearance. Yet no one cancelled, no one complained, and no one seemed affected by the myriads of hardships. Everyone was concerned mainly with how to perform in the most passionate and convincing way. Passion, in my opinion, is the common denominator, running like a stormy river through our festival, pulsating wildly within its core. Performing with passion and abandon the works that we believe in is our mission and our striving. My vision for this festival is to have extremely varied programs, where beautiful “audience favorites” are presented alongside rarely performed gems, by a variety of instrumentalists and chamber groups. In our inaugural first season of just six concerts, we have already presented one world premiere and three New York premieres, as well as diverse groups, including a brass quintet and a jazz string quartet. Chamber music wears many hats, whether created by John Coltrane or by Beethoven. In just these six concerts we presented a tremendously great variety of composers, from Albinoni, Bach, Handel, and Pisendel, to Leonard Bernstein, Vernon Duke, Osvaldo Golijov, and Lalo Schifrin. And that’s how I envision the future editions of this festival—as a kaleidoscope of beauty, brilliance, and passion, as an eclectic and energetic fireworks display, celebrating the give and take, the collaboration, the collegiality that chamber music is all about. Our passion for the music will, I hope, strike a match in the hearts of the listeners. To present, educate, and mesmerize is what we live for.

W. Z.: (to Sam): I had the honor of sitting next to your father and his wife during the reception. Your dad, having headed Monmouth College for years, well knew of Monmouth County where I currently live. He was a great raconteur. My question to you is: what inspired you to take up the cello in the first place? And what inspired you to bring your technique to its current world-class-level?

S. M.: At age 10, I had been studying piano for two years when my father took me to see the National Symphony on tour in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He tells me that I became very excited upon hearing then Principal Cellist John Martin play a solo. My father suggested I start lessons in the public school, and two years later I began private lessons with a teacher who traveled from Philadelphia once a week. In ninth grade, I was sent to begin high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where I studied with a really first-class teacher, Irving Klein of the Claremont Quartet. He had been a pupil of Feuermann, and right away put me on a strict classical method of developing technique. I credit him with giving me a very solid foundation. Later, at both the Peabody Institute and Rice University, I worked with Laurence Lesser and Shirley Trepel, both outstanding pedagogues, and some years later with the late Zara Nelsova, who was really inspirational. I did, indeed, work very hard on my technique, but as I was slow to develop on the cello, I became quite determined in my twenties and thirties to raise my level of playing by continuing to practice etudes and playing recitals throughout my orchestral career. Also, I took numerous orchestral auditions, which cannot fail to improve one, especially with the constant use of both a metronome and a tuner, a practice I continue to this day. I have never been one to coast while working full time in an orchestra, even at the Met, which has a daunting, exhausting schedule.

W. Z.: How did you link up with Naxos?

S. M.: The relationship with them came about because when, in 2003, I played the Vernon Duke Cello Concerto on a recital, Kay Duke Ingalls, his widow, chose me to record it. She also wanted Scott Dunn to record the Piano Concerto. Scott had already recently recorded the works of Lucas Foss for Naxos. In the meantime, I played a recital with the marvelous pianist Oxana Yablonskaya. When I told her of these plans, she at once suggested we do it in Moscow with her conductor and cellist son, Dmitri Yablonsky, and his Russian Philharmonic. So, in 2005, we traveled to Moscow and were lucky enough to partake of the extremely high artistic and technical standards of the Moscow Radio House’s famed Studio 5—a giant space where most of the famous Melodya records were made in the 1960s and 1970s.

W. Z.: For both of you, especially to the interest of Fanfare readers, what are your future recording plans?

S. M.: Together we would like to record a CD of double concertos, especially one by Ysaÿe which has never been recorded. I am a big fan of the music written by Cèsar Franck’s many brilliant pupils, and I hope to record the cello and piano music of Pierre de Bréville. Then there are a couple of marvelous never-before-recorded cello and orchestra works by Charles Wakefield Cadman and Arthur Foote. I also have a flute, cello, and harp trio that has some fascinating music, such as the Wallingford Riegger Divertissement. And yes, someday it would be nice to record some standard repertoire!

E. D.: Sam and I have serious projects for future recordings, together and separately. We would like to record together other works by Ysaÿe, Saint-Saëns, and Vieuxtemps, also more Alfano, and works by Boris Tchaikovsky (no relation to Pjotr). Separately, I am interested in the “lost” violin works by Vernon Duke, and am hoping to record works by the Greek composers Manolis Kalomiris and Christos Papageorgiou.

By all the evidence, the stars are in alignment. Elmira Darvarova’s New York Chamber Music Festival has provided a venue for an impressive array of world-class performers. Both her and Samuel Magill’s adventurousness in programming coupled with Naxos’s similarly adventurous mission have convincingly made the case that the musical universe, like the universe at large, is not static, but infinitely expanding.

This article originally appeared in Issue 33:3 (Jan/Feb 2010) of Fanfare Magazine.
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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 5:05 AM - 9 Oct 2009 | Applause: 2
The New York Chamber Music Festival continues at Symphony Space

September 16, By Mona Molarsky

After rousing performances last night by violinist Rachel Barton Pine and pianist Matthew Hagle, the New York Chamber Music Festival continues at Symphony Space.

Tonight, a Beethoven string trio shares the bill with a more modern string trio by Eugene Ysaye (1858-1931), a piano quartet by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) and “Metamorphosis for Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano” by Gernot Wolfgang (born 1957). Violinist Elmira Darvarova, violist Ronald Carbone, cellist Samuel Magill and pianist Linda Hall will perform.

Thursday’s program offers work by two 20th century composers, Franco Alfano (1875-1954) and Vernon Duke (1903-1969)—performed by violinist Elmira Darvarova, cellist Samuel Magill, and pianist Scott Dunn.
Sunday, the final night of the festival, features chamber works by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), Claude Debussy (1862-1918), Osvaldo Golijov (born 1960), Lalo Schifrin (born 1932) and Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Cellist Antonio Lysy will be making his New York debut, in a joint concert with pianist Pascal Rogé.

This is the inaugural season for the festival, directed by violinist Elmira Darvarova, formerly the concert master of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Judging by last night’s wonderful concert, the New York Chamber Music Festival is a valuable addition to the cultural life of the Upper West Side. If music be the food of love, life—or even a great Wednesday night on Upper Broadway--play on!
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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 5:01 AM - 9 Oct 2009 | Applause: 2

MusicWeb International's Worldwide Concert and Opera Reviews



New York Chamber Music Festival - Alfano and Duke: Elmira Darvarova (violin), Samuel Magill (cello), Scott Dunn (piano), Symphony Space, New York City, 17.9.2009 (BH)

Franco Alfano: Sonata for Cello and Piano (1925)
Vernon Duke: Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major (1949,
New York premiere)
Franco Alfano: Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano (1932)

In his excellent notes, cellist Samuel Magill describes Toscanini conducting the world premiere of Turandot, and the conductor's curt dismissal of Franco Alfano's completion of the opera's final act: "On opening night at La Scala in 1926, Toscanini stopped conducting where Puccini's music ended and Alfano's began, and abruptly left the orchestra pit. This incident had a lot to do with damaging Alfano's career and ensuring his falling into obscurity after his death."??So fast-forward to the 21st century, when there appears to be a bit of an Alfano revival afoot. In 2005 the Metropolitan Opera staged his Cyrano de Bergerac, which I thought was an underrated gem, at least on one viewing. And now, in conjunction with their new recording of two of Alfano's chamber works, Magill and his superb colleagues, violinist Elmira Darvarova and pianist Scott Dunn, performed them at Symphony Space.

Alfano's Cello Sonata is an intense outpouring of emotion—florid and romantic—and Magill's larger-than-life sound immediately captured attention, coupled with Dunn's astute work at the keyboard. The harmonic language is not too far removed from Debussy, with moments of intense chromaticism that could almost be from Scriabin. The emotional range is huge, from the touching middle lullaby, to the anxiety of the final agitated movement, and Magill and Dunn captured every nuance. During the final pages, with an impassioned climax dissolving into an ending of haunting repose, I kept thinking this might be a major find for cello sonata aficionados.??As a well-conceived break, Ms. Darvarova and Mr. Dunn tackled Vernon Duke's surprisingly virtuosic Sonata for Violin and Piano. Perhaps best known for popular songs like "Autumn in New York," "April in Paris," and a favorite, "I Can't Get Started," Duke studied with Gliere and admired Prokofiev, and some of those influences can be heard here. The sonata's flavor is very much Latin-influenced, especially in the off-kilter rhythmic patterns of the final movement, titled Brilliante and tumultoso. The violin part is extremely difficult, which is perhaps why it hasn't been performed often, but Ms. Darvarova pulled through winningly, with Dunn in close footsteps behind her.

The title of Alfano's Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano is a bit misleading, since it is basically a piano trio, most likely dubbed a "concerto" because of its difficulty. It also gave Mr. Dunn a considerably larger role, which he filled effortlessly, while his companions played tag, the cello using its upper register to mimic the violin timbre. Moments of violence are matched by dusky muted string hues, and the first movement ends on a note of solitude. In the middle section, pizzicatos sprinkle down like a spring shower with hints of Eastern European folk music. Time after time, the tension rises then cools off and steps back, as if a scene were being glimpsed behind a curtain. The finale evokes Bartók—vigorous, feverish, dance-like—and oceans away from the previous movements. Bristling with energy and occasional fugal treatments for all three players, skittering figures alternate with long-breathed interludes leading to a bravura final page. All three gave some of their best playing of the entire night.

The concert was part of the inaugural season of the New York Chamber Music Festival, created and administered by Ms. Darvarova, which presents off-the-radar music by musicians from the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera. A light audience turnout notwithstanding, some seriously good music was on display this evening: I suspect all three works will delight those who encounter them.

Bruce Hodges
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newyorkchambermusicfestiv 4:51 AM - 9 Oct 2009 | Applause: 2
The New York Times


A Sampling of Strings From Baroque to Gypsy

Published: September 17, 2009

The violinist Rachel Barton Pine has recorded plentifully and has performed in New York several times as a chamber player, most notably at the Frick Collection with Trio Settecento, her period-instrument group, in 2006. The program on that occasion was a set of Baroque trio sonatas in which the violin held the spotlight most of the time. But it turns out that Ms. Pine had never played a traditional recital here, the kind with just piano accompaniment (or none) and with a program that ranges across a few centuries and style.

She rectified that omission on Tuesday evening with a recital at Symphony Space as part of the hall’s New York Chamber Music Festival. Because Ms. Pine is a star in Chicago, her hometown, the concert was broadcast live on WFMT, Chicago’s principal classical music station, with the radio personality William McGlaughlin as the host and, unaccountably, a permanent stage fixture. Though he did not conduct an interview with Ms. Pine or introduce the works (Ms. Pine did that herself), Mr. McGlaughlin sat at a table on the stage through both halves of the program, sometimes writing or drinking water. Was that absolutely necessary?

Ms. Pine began where her Frick performance had left off, in the heart of the Baroque, with a Sonata in A minor for Unaccompanied Violin (1717) by Johann Georg Pisendel, a contemporary of Bach and a kindred spirit. Like Bach, Pisendel provided a single line of music, phrased in ways that invite a player to create the illusion of counterpoint. Ms. Pine accomplished that with deftly shifting articulation and color. You may have wished, all the same, that she had played Bach instead, but Ms. Pine made a valiant case for Pisendel as a reasonable alternative.

She was joined for the rest of the program by Matthew Hagle, a sensitive pianist who knew when to defer, and when deference would be counterproductive. They proved a well-matched duo in Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F (1838), which gives both players singing lines as well as sparkling, brisk figuration.
But it took them a few moments to find common ground. Ms. Pine’s phrasing was oddly breathless at first and seemed to push against Mr. Hagle’s more settled pace. She found her bearings by the end of the first movement. In the central Adagio she played with a warm tone that stopped just short of lugubriousness, an approach that set up the sizzling finale perfectly.

Ms. Pine recalibrated only slightly for John Corigliano’s Sonata (1963), a neo-Romantic work that thrives on melody, but uses chromaticism freely to give its tunes both a modern cast and a touch of unpredictability. It has stood up remarkably well: having weathered a period when consonance was suspect, it seems prescient now that a generation of composers have adopted Mr. Corigliano’s eclecticism.
Ms. Pine and Mr. Hagle closed their recital with fiery accounts of two showpieces rooted in Gypsy fiddling: Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, and, in an encore, Cesar Espejo’s “Airs Tziganes.”

The New York Chamber Music Festival runs through Sunday at Symphony Space, 2537 Broadway, at 95th Street; (212) 864-5000,
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