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by Nicholas Jones

CFC-June-29-TrioThree has been the magic number throughout ChamberFest 2014, and nowhere more than in its closing concert in CIM’s Mixon Hall on Sunday afternoon. The music was rich and, as usual with ChamberFest, the musicianship masterful. This very enjoyable program, titled “3X,” included three works, each featuring instruments in multiples of three.

The contribution of “three” was the well-known Beethoven Piano Trio in D, opus 70, known as the “Ghost.” Like other chamber works from Beethoven’s middle period, the “Ghost” is intense, full of contrasts that surprise and excite. Violinist Diana Cohen (ChamberFest’s artistic and executive director), cellist Gabriel Cabezas, and pianist Orion Weiss gave a performance that brought out both the strength and the subtlety of the piece. Read the rest of this entry »


By Daniel Hautzinger

DSC_6439Intelligent programming at its best not only uncovers interesting musical connections, but can also lend insight into the world beyond music. The repertoire for ChamberFest’s eighth concert, at Fairmount Presbyterian Church, is a fine example. The juxtaposition of three works from a 35-year period by “Three Bouncing Czechs” provided a glimpse into different historical moods, revealing the drastic psychological damage wrought by World War I.

Erwin Schulhoff was born in Prague in 1894. He was wounded in WWI while serving in the Austro-Hungarian military, and ended the war in an Italian POW camp. The first movement of his String Sextet was composed in Dresden in 1920, two years after the end of the war, the final three movements in Prague in 1924. It is an intense work, devoid of hope: the death and desolation of the war Schulhoff had just witnessed pervade every note. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hautzinger

Clara-Schumann“I would write to you only by means of music,” said Robert Schumann in a letter to his wife, the composer and pianist Clara Schumann. Theirs is a storied coupling, beginning against the wishes of Clara’s father, ending with Robert’s mental breakdown and early death, and complicated by their close relationships with Johannes Brahms. All three being heart-on-their-sleeve Romantic composers, and with Robert’s letter in mind, it makes sense to explore this “Love Triangle” through their music.

On June 26 in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Mixon Hall, ChamberFest did just that in a sold-out concert, presenting a work by each of the three with intermingled readings from their letters by ChamberFest Speaker Patrick Castillo (the above quote comes from those). Read the rest of this entry »

By Mike Telin and Daniel Hautzinger

After four concerts and a family program, ChamberFest Cleveland now moves into its second and final week with five more concerts. One of those includes a performance of Chinese composer Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera with world premiere choreography. As part of our continuing coverage of ChamberFest, we spoke with three participants.

Noah Bendix-Balgley

Bendix-BalgleySometime in the next year, Noah Bendix-Balgley will leave his position as concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which he won when he was 27 in 2011. Why leave such a desirable chair, especially when he was appointed at such a young age? To become first concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic, one of the most prestigious orchestras in the world.

But before he leaves for Berlin, Bendix-Balgley will come to Cleveland to join “a really wonderful cast of some of the best young musicians around,” as he described his fellow ChamberFest participants in a phone interview. Needless to say, Bendix-Balgley is a worthy addition to that cast.

He joins ChamberFest to play some Romantic masterworks, “some of the best chamber music out there and some of my favorite pieces to play:” Brahms’s piano Quintet, Dvořák’s E-flat piano quartet, and Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence” sextet. Beyond those pieces, he’ll also perform two pieces for the first time. “I’m very much looking forward to working with [pianist] Orion Weiss on the Janáček violin sonata, it’s a really wonderful piece,” he said. Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round for double string quartet and bass, on ChamberFest’s final concert, is also new to him. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-30-AdamsFor the last of the eight concerts in its expanded second season, ChamberFest Cleveland moved from traditional concert halls (and a new art gallery) to our local urban version of a rustic summer New England venue, the Dunham Tavern’s barn on Euclid Avenue in midtown. The structure, built in 2000, replaced an 1840 horse and crop storage barn that was leveled by a fire in 1963. Though it looks rather modern and utilitarian from the outside, its wooden beams frame an interior space with warm acoustical properties.

There’s barely room to swing a viola there, much less accommodate a grand piano, so Mirrors was devoted to music by Purcell, Britten and Mendelssohn for three, four and five string players who stood (except for the cellists) to save room, optimize sight lines and broadcast the music over the heads of the capacity audience, who were packed into the space on folding chairs. The seating was uncomfortable and the temperature a bit on the warm side, but the afternoon was otherwise completely delightful, with the bonus of free ice cream outside afterward. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

CFC-June-28a-AdamsAlthough the 2013 ChamberFest Cleveland theme is [It’s] About Time, a secondary theme could easily be Variety is the Spice of Life. On Friday, June 28 at Harkness Chapel the superb ChamberFest musicians presented a thoroughly engaging program full of musical variety from start to finish titled A Tempo.

The technically commanding and musically sensitive cellist Robert deMaine began the evening with a high energy performance of Alberto Ginastera’s Pampeana No. 2, Rhapsody for cello and piano. The brief work depicting the Argentine pampas or treeless plains gave deMaine ample room to demonstrate his soulful side as well as his virtuosic prowess. Pianist Matan Porat was a keen collaborator, performing with rhythmic precision.

Porat, together with violinist Yehonatan Berick and cellist Julie Albers, were of one musical mind during their captivating performance of Ravel’s Trio in A minor. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

CFC-June-29ChamberFest Cleveland continued to pack ’em in on Friday evening at CIM’s Mixon Hall, when an enthusiastic, capacity crowd gathered for a program entitled Riot [Like It’s 1913]. It wasn’t 1913 until the second half and even then the closest thing to a popular uprising was an immediate standing ovation, but the work that generated the theme of the evening was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Not the big one, but the composer’s rehearsal version for two pianos (played by Orion Weiss and Matan Porat), spiffed up for the occasion with percussion parts arranged by Scott Christian and Alexander Cohen (who played them) and Diana Cohen (who rooted from the audience).

Stravinsky’s orchestration is rich with color and vibrant with rhythm. The two-piano version necessarily sheds a lot of symphonic hues (something that’s obvious from the opening bars, when that strained high bassoon solo gets translated to the keyboard), but the visceral quality of the composer’s groundbreaking rhythms only becomes enhanced on the piano. Add to that five timpani, bass drum, cymbals, gongs and other instruments culled from the orchestral batterie, and the effect is super-thrilling. Read the rest of this entry »

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