Olympic Music Festival, led by Alan Iglitzin, provides music-making of the highest caliber.
Concert Review |
You might expect that on a glorious Fourth of July, with the sun high in a cloudless sky, the “music” element at the Olympic Music Festival would take a back seat to the obvious attractions of the bucolic Quilcene venue — picnics for the concertgoers, carrots for the donkeys, and occasional breezes blowing gently into the venerable barn where the concerts happen.
Nothing, however, could take precedence in my mind over the superb performances we heard in this Independence Day program. The choice of works already served promise of profound satisfaction: the clarinet trios of Mozart and Brahms for start and finish, with Beethoven’s A-major Cello Sonata in the middle. And the partnership of two senior musicians with two much younger ones exemplified music-making of the highest possible caliber.
As on many Olympic weekends, violist Alan Iglitzin, who started the festival 26 years ago, was playing with pianist Paul Hersh. Joining in were 22-year-old clarinetist Teddy Abrams (who also studied piano with Hersh) for the Mozart and Brahms, and cellist Clancy Newman, now in his early 30s, for Brahms and Beethoven.
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The fact that Abrams and Newman are both active composers — Abrams conducts, too — may help to explain the sense of artistic insight that informed every note they played. But in the articulation of Mozart’s musical thought through the textures of his trio for viola, clarinet and piano, it is the piano part that supplies the backbone, and so Hersh had the first opportunity to demonstrate the quality that was to characterize the entire concert.
No line would be shaped without thought, no cadence turned without nuance and expressive point. Not that this was in any sense mannered playing — it just responded with total naturalness to the musical invention first of Mozart, and then of the two other composers.
Iglitzin (who has a more arduous appointment with two of Beethoven’s most taxing late string quartets at the next program this weekend) was heard only in the Mozart trio, where he matched Hersh’s limpid tone and Abrams’ impeccable line with many graceful phrases of his own. Abrams, indeed, is already a clarinetist to be treasured: He has an extraordinarily wide and musical dynamic range, by which I mean not merely that he can play both softly and loudly, but that his pianissimo sustains extremes of subtle poetry and that his fortissimo is never harsh or piercing.
Newman, who provided a warmly sensuous string component in Brahms’ darker and more introverted trio, is a musician of no lesser gifts. His projection of the taxing cello part in the Beethoven sonata realized both the tigerish intensity of the more energetic sections and the (suitably!) Olympian serenity that prevails through much of the work.
On this idyllic afternoon, it was fascinating to observe how the four participants’ delightfully good-humored personal interplay between pieces gave way to utterly serious concentration as soon as the music started. And think: There are nine more such weekends still to come.
Bernard Jacobson: email@example.com