Music review: Music all day at Bard

Published on May 12th, 2014 | by Kevin T. McEneaney

How long can you last in a concert room? Last Saturday, at the Lázló Z. Bitó Conservatory Building, Bard College celebrated Chamber Music Day, which lasted seven hours. I lasted only five, but they were a beautiful and memorable five hours. The string playing was fabulous. Hanni Xie excelled on violin in Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major (1903); Fang Xi Liu on violin and Yinbin Qian on viola were lyrically elegant in Elgar’s String Quartet in E minor, Op. 83.

A session crescendo was achieved in Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, in which Aischa Gündish and Veronika Mojzešová on violin, Wenlong Huang on viola, and Ratislav Huba on cello virtually blended into a single organism with their dynamic communication. The experience was like ascending a mountain peak, from which we descended to a lake of harmony, where Mozart’s String Quartet No. 14 in G major (K. 387) led us through melodic fields of flowers in spring. Here the violins of Xianbo Wen and Tianpei Ai triumphed, with the backing of Jiawei Yan on viola and Stanley Moore on cello.

After intermission Ratislav Huba on cello once again mesmerized the audience in Clarinet Trio in B flat major by Brahms, whose romanticism reached a height of eloquence to which no later composer could practically aspire.

A student trio performed Bard composition teacher Howard Frazin’s Some Thoughts on Good and Evil (2009). This was a modern, engaging, melancholy piece wherein good was presented as modest and generous in its dialectic dance with evil. Matthew Woodard on violin appeared to have an intuitive and sensitive understanding of the music which appeared beautifully fragile. On piano Annie Jeong achieved a haunting accompaniment evoking evil, with John Belk providing solid cello conversation between the other two instruments.

This session’s climax featured Xianbo Wen on violin in Beethoven’s Piano Trio in B flat, Op. 97, sometimes called the Archduke. A difficult piece to play, with surprising twists and turns, it originally showcased the clarinet, but the violin is usually preferred today. Xianbo Wen possesses a beautiful tone and plays with grace that looks effortless. Although deaf, Beethoven himself played the piano in the work’s first public appearance. Mayumi Tsuchida played piano with emphatic rhythm and was supported with solid work on cello by Rylan Gajek-Leonard.

After a pleasant non-philosophical conversation with the philosopher Dr. Robert Martin, Vice President of Bard and student cello coach, I retreated to the humdrum clatter of the street. Elsewhere at Bard there was a Samba concert and a series of recitals for children and youngsters. The campus pulsated with the music of spring.


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