The July 15 concert in the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival was chock-full of stellar talent, from pianist Jeremy Denk to violinist Benjamin Beilman to lyric tenor Nicholas Phan and mezzo Sasha Cooke.
Variety was the keyword for Wednesday night’s presentations at the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival. The evening began with the most dulcet of Mozart sonatas, and concluded with the desperate renunciation of Janáček’s searing “The Diary of One Who Disappeared.”
Not surprisingly, some of the evening’s finest playing came in the preconcert recital, when the stellar pianist Jeremy Denk teamed up with the young violin virtuoso Benjamin Beilman for a pair of sonatas. For weary concertgoers who had braved some particularly appalling I-5 traffic to get to Benaroya Hall, the opening strains of Mozart’s K.301 Violin Sonata in G Major were a balm to the soul.
Beilman’s sweet, infinitely pliant tone was matched by Denk’s detailed lyricism at the keyboard, as each phrase was successively embellished a little more each time it appeared. The level of communication and the degree of accord were both unusually fine. And the duo’s approach to the Janáček sonata that followed couldn’t have been more different: incisive, restless, and propulsive, with a second (“Ballada”) movement that demonstrated Beilman’s infinite variety of bowing and tone coloration.
Seattle Chamber Music Society Summer Festival
Concerts continue through Aug. 1. $48; $30 senior rush 90 minutes before each concert; $16 students (206-283-8710 or seattlechambermusic.org).
Still more variety was to come in the main concert, which opened with Schubert’s brief String Quartet in C Minor (“Quartettsatz”), and went on to Respighi’s “Il Tramonto” (for mezzo-soprano and string quartet), a Mozart piano trio (K.502), and Janáček’s stirring, dramatic “Diary of One Who Disappeared.” The Schubert, in an energetic performance with Jun Iwasaki, Yura Lee, Richard O’Neill and Andrés Díaz, took awhile to come together, and suffered from a few minor pitch inaccuracies.
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The same string quartet accompanied Sasha Cooke in the Respighi, where the rich warmth of her voice illuminated the joy and the grief of the Shelley poem (“The Sunset”) on which the score is based.
Mozart’s K.502 Piano Trio in B-flat Major brought together violinist Beilman with cellist Bion Tsang and pianist Joyce Yang, all strong players; Beilman had some particularly expressive moments in the second (Larghetto) movement.
The performance of the evening, however, was tenor Nicholas Phan’s tour-de-force in the “Diary of One Who Disappeared.” The task of presenting (from memory) this long and complicated score in Czech paled in comparison to the depth of expression with which Phan invested this quasi-operatic role. Denk provided a full spectrum of almost orchestral colorations at the keyboard, ranging from the spare and subtle to huge washes of sound.
With Sasha Cooke as the protagonist’s gypsy inamorata, and an offstage trio (Rena Harms, Nerys Jones and Rachelle Moss), the performance was a chamber opera in miniature. But the show belonged to Phan, whose impressive emotional and vocal range culminated in a wholehearted, all-out finale of exultation and despair.