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The Four Seasons

New York
Weill Recital Hall
11/01/2000 -  
Ludwig van Beethoven: Trio No. 2, Op. 1 No. 2
Maurice Ravel: Piano Trio
Franz Schubert: Trio No. 2, D. 929

Benjamin Hochman (piano), Sara Bitlloch (violin), Miguel Angel Clares (cello)

The most enjoyable time of year for a critic is the spring, when the schedules are published for the following season. Everything looks so wonderful in the brochures, each concert venue competing for the ticket buyer's attention with crisply enticing programs and fresh faced photos of thrilled patrons. As one blessed to be able to attend as many of these concerts as I desire, I positively salivate over the delightful possibilities inherent in each new season. The summer's paucity of events in the steaming city is made more bearable by thoughts of the fall and its promise of the greatest season ever just around the corner. When reality sets in, however, some of these lovingly anticipated evenings turn out to be much less than enchanting and a certain cynical winter of discontent about the lack of commitment of many professional musicians leaves one questioning what we are all really doing here, expending so much effort in the holy mission of preserving the great but fragile membrane that is Western classical music. There are certain series, however, which never disappoint because of the integrity of their management and the unbridled enthusiasm of their performers. One of the most reliable of these groupings consists of the various presentations of young performers at the Weill Recital Hall, the opulent adjunct of Carnegie with the most gracious appointments and the best acoustics in town.

One particularly notable subscription is the Alexander Schneider Young Artist Series, an opportunity for young musicians about to embark on distinguished careers to experience the thrill of a Carnegie Hall recital without the overwhelmingly cavernous main hall (which must seem like Fafnir's lair to an inexperienced performer) to conquer. At Weill, the audience is small and friendly, but unusually attentive and intelligent. A successful evening here is a psychological springboard to greatness.

Sir Georg Solti used to remark that the best orchestral musicians were mostly all Europeans but the best training schools were all in the US. Here in the New York area we have the top three conservatories in America. Juilliard and the Manhattan School are right in town and, just down the New Jersey Turnpike, is the Curtis Institute of Philadelphia. It was here that the Mediterraneo Trio was recently formed. Each member is from a different country (Israel, France and Spain) and each took very little time before impressing with their solid techniques, clear listening abilities and mature conceptions. I was particularly pleased to hear such well thought out and delicate phrasing, suitably ordered in the Beethoven, wildly passionate in the Ravel, deeply disturbing in the Schubert. There was also considerable virtuosity, for example in the rapid fire opening of the final movement of the Beethoven. The overall blending was satisfactory although I would have wished for a little more volume from the cello. Only in the Schubert was there any disjointedness, several of the passages just a tad out of sync.

But any small shortcomings were swallowed in the magic of this evening. This is a group with plays with a high degree of commitment and passion, rare qualities indeed in their elders. It was especially heartening to observe so many youthful audience members and feel the electricity of their appreciation. There is a buzz of a continuum at these gatherings which makes one hopeful that the future of music is safe from the assault of the mediocre which is the curse of our media dominated age. Seated next to me was the radiant Mitsuko Uchida, not only one of the greatest concert artists of our time, but also the new co-director of the Marlboro Music Festival. You can just feel the energy of her connection with young people.

Upon reflection, I would rather attend this type of concert than any run of the mill night with a big orchestra. Although the season is still new, this evening was by and so far the most satisfying musical experience. I can hardly wait for spring to read the new brochures.

Frederick L. Kirshnit



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