News & Reviews

Bach and Brahms at the World Music Festival
September 24, 2012

By: Steve Gladstone (MiamiArtZine)

Professional classical musicians tend to be gypsies, moving from orchestra to orchestra, quartet to quartet, chair to chair. This is no reflection on their level of talent, but more to do with the business of classical music. Unless one of these fine musicians has a full time gig with a major world class symphony, they move around the globe with their instrument in tow and string their engagements together to make a living. Thus from this bubbling pot of talent hail the excellent musicians making up The Miami Chamber Players. They were the music makers for the first concert of The World Music Festival that kicked off last weekend at the Wertheim Concert Hall on the campus of FIU South. 

First on tap were two of the six Brandenburg Concertos by J. S. Bach; the collection of the six instrumental works was presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig of Brandenburg in 1721 and regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era. One might say the Brandenburg Concertos was Bach’s “White Album.” 

The Miami Chamber Players were formed in a semi circle with the harpsichord at its center as they launched into the allegro of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B flat major. This upbeat movement which began with the violas in a tight canon lacked certain crispness during the tutti sections, the polyphony was uneven, and the continuo muddy. It appeared as if these musicians were sight reading the movement together for the first time. Rising out of a wearisome second movement, the players shifted into gear and navigated the familiar third well. (National Public Radio listeners recognized this American Public Media theme.) The communication between the players was now cohesive, tossing the running melodic gigue from voice to voice, the bass line more pronounced as the MCP appeared to hit their stride as the instruments were drawn into the “seemingly uninterrupted steady flow of melodic invention.”

The violin, viola, viola da gamba, harpsichord, cello and bass voices then embraced the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major, more defined and focused. They displayed an assortment of dynamics and colors, the echoing polyphony crisp, critical when there are so many voices jockeying for position. After the brief harpsichord bridge, the violins and violas (who were standing) ran with the theme in lively fashion, some players bending and swaying as they passed the vigorous melodic subject back and forth. The violins, violas, and viola da gambas for these Brandenburgs were handled by Georgeta Spiridon, Anne Chicheportiche, Tomas Cotik, Huifang Chen, Viera Borisova, Rafael Ramirez, Marie Ridolfo, Mikaho  Somekawa, the cello by Ashley Garritson, harpsichord, Maria Bucco, and bass by Hernan Matute.

The five players presenting the Brahms Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34 (published 1865) were solid. First violinist Daniel Andai (currently concertmaster of The Miami Symphony Orchestra) was energetic, often playful, challenging his cohorts to perform at a higher level as the consummate pianist Adolfo Vidal (the founder of the Miami World Music Festival) navigated the keyboard with strength and purpose. This string quartet with piano quickly lifted off the launch pad, passionately climbing, the strings soaring with one voice on a level playing field with the piano. The fervent conversation between the strings and the keyboard continued through the sonata based first movement, the dynamics ebbed and flowed seamlessly, the musical lines effectively descending at times. The woven fabric of melody passed from piano to violin and back again, into a full rich sound that was symphonic in scope, a lively pleasant interlude segueing into a rich build to conclude the movement. A slower textured second began with a soft conversation between violin and piano, the full quartet then taking up the satisfying theme, the violin and piano again dancing, leaving the quartet to amplify the melody. The acoustically exceptional Wertheim Concert Hall walls were humming when the group attacked the Scherzo (third movement), the agitated unison voices advancing into a sturdy cadence, driving and driving into a pleasant melody, cranking back into the broad march, the foot never letting up on the gas pedal. The Finale began with a sense of foreboding by the cello quickly joined by the other string voices in a rising figure, lifting off into a sprint, all voices sharing in the conversation. There came a fiery climb to the end, and suddenly it was over.

This ample string quartet helmed by the strong violin of Daniel Andai included Thomas Cotik, violin, Ashley Garritson, cello, and Viera Borisova on viola.

The piano and strings played equally significant roles throughout the entire piece.  This nomadic quintet had backbone and spirit that brought the audience to its feet.