Thursday, August 1, 2019

[38] Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center plays Mozart, Brahms, and Arensky at Alice Tully Hall | #1Summer50Concerts

WHO: Anthony McGill, clarinet; Bella Hristova, violin; Nicholas Canellakis, cello; Juho Pohjonen, piano
WHAT: MOZART Violin Sonata No. 32 in B-flat major, K. 454; BRAHMS Clarinet Trio in A minor, Op. 114; ARENSKY Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32
WHERE: Alice Tully Hall
WHEN: July 14, 2019 at 5:00pm

I have exceptional luck when it comes to getting into sold-out concerts. From Chunky in Heat at the very beginning of the summer, to Pierre Hantaï in mid-June, and a couple others pre-summer, I usually can negotiate myself into at least standing room.

I've only been turned away from one concert this summer, and that was the first of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's first summer evening concert on July 10. The Wednesday evening concert, which featured works of Schubert and Dvořák alongside Mendelssohn's rarely heard piano sextet, was sold out except for one seat which was offered to me at a premium of $85 -- to be expected considering the lineup, which included famed pianist John Kimura Parker, NY Phil principal violist Cynthia Phelps, and Tokyo Quartet cellist Clive Greensmith.

So I decided to come back with some friends and try for the next concert. Three $10 tickets later and we were sitting in the third row waiting eagerly for the downbeat.

Our anticipation was met with a heaping bowl of meh.

I mean, it wasn't unpleasant. The notes were correct, at least. But the musicians were, for the most part, dialing it in. Bella Hristova's Mozart wasn't particularly musically interesting, not that you could hear her above Juho Pohjonen's hammer-hands. I think the Mozart might have suffered from Hristova's nerves, though -- her Arensky was much looser and more refined.

Nick Canellakis's vibrato covered up anyone who he played with, most notably clarinetist Anthony McGill. From what I could hear of him, McGill played the most genuine performance of the evening, granted I could hear precious little over the opaque stylings of Canellakis and Pohjonen. And Pohjonen had possibly the most awkward stage presence I've ever seen, his face motionless and his body just kind of jerking around.

I don't want to belabor negativity, but I'll finish by saying this: I could see Canellakis being a great soloist in a thousand-seat concert hall. Pohjonen as well. I know for a fact Hristova can play the shit out of her instrument -- see the video at the top of this post. But this was simply not their day.

At least there was free wine after the performance :)

P.S. I'm no style guru, but CMS seriously needs to learn that white jacket + black tie is not an indoor look. Period.

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