The Chamber Music Society Excites

Nicholas Canellakis
Wu Han
Young artists stun audience

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center opened its season Wednesday, October 20, with an extraordinary array of young and old artists playing standby 19th century classics.  It provided a treat that fully justifies the society’s reputation as a home of musicians of superior talents.

Two new faces among the list of artist members of CMS  are pianist Michael Brown and cellist Nicholas Canellakis , both of whom we have heard at Music Mountain and at Chamber Music II. They often play together. Their U-Tube is worth as visit. Brown is a composer and he appears to be a talented pianist.  He wrote a short program note in which he said of the Mendelssohn, “most important of course is its humor, elegance, shifting moods, delightful interplay among the musicians, and ultimately sheer optimism that reminds us what chamber music is all about.”

Hayden’s Trio in A Major written in his London years presents a brisk, lilting delight that brought out the superb techniques of Wu Han, the CMS co-director on piano; Ani Kavafian on violin and Nick Canellakis on cello. Wu Han was the driving force with the strings softening and tempering.  Kavafian’s violin showed how in 44 years of playing with CMS she can still find nuances and subtleties that make careful listening rewarding. 

Mendelssohn was 15 when he wrote Sextet if D Major in 1824. It was the first composition for these particular instruments.  Billed as lasting 29 minutes, this is no minute ditty, but all solid music.  From the opening bars Michael Brown showed his firm, careful, but driving approach. His playing was fluid, with subtle dynamics shaping, enunciating, and expressing musical arc. Clarity and pace were well balanced. One was not overcome with romanticism, nor was this an academic exercise. It was a wonderful piece of music that came off fresh and seemingly spontaneous—it drew a rousing response from the appreciative audience.

The final piece, Schuman’s Quintet in E-flat Major of 1842, a romantic warhorse, was marvelously played by Anne-Marie McDermott who has been an artist member of CMS since 1995.  Ani Kavafian and 19 year-old Chad Hoopes on violins, Matthew Lipman and Paul Neubauer on violas, and Nicholas Canellakis on cello were a who’s who of talented chamber players. How could you go wrong with this group?  You couldn’t. We heard this music at its best.