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Chicago Classical Review » » North Shore Chamber Fest Marks A Decade With Stylish And Spicy Beethoven




The Ariel String Quartet performed Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartet in C major at the North Shore Chamber Music Festival in Northbrook Wednesday night. Photo; NSCMF

There is no better music than Beethoven’s to affirm the intransigence of the human spirit, not least at a time when the concert world is cautiously venturing out of the darkness of lockdown into post-pandemic normality.

The North Shore Chamber Music Festival recognized that Wednesday night at the Village Presbyterian Church in Northbrook, where resident ensembles and guest musicians presented a Basic Beethoven program as the opening concert of the festivals’ 10th anniversary season.

The festivals’ husband-and-wife administrators, violinist and artistic director Vadim Gluzman, and pianist and executive director Angela Yoffe, limited free attendance to approximately 260 masked, socially distancing listeners (the church seats up to 420).

Spontaneous applause erupted between movements, a clear indication that what the directors call ‘a festival of friends, for friends’ is really and truly up and running again. The program, like the two following this weekend, was streamed live on the festival website and on the platform of its media partner The Violin Channel.

To survive ten seasons, let alone thrive and count in the highly competitive realm of local chamber music, is no small feat. Gluzman and Yoffe work diligently to maintain the festival as one of the essences of the classical music scene; they should also be commended for maintaining high standards of musicianship from season to season, mentoring deserving young musicians, and expanding the mix with education and outreach.

The scourge of Covid-19 rained down on the parades of countless music groups last year, when the celebration of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary is said to have been rife. Gluzman, Yoffe and friends anchored Wednesday’s kick-off with two stylistically complementary works by Beethoven that the festival is said to have presented around this time last year: the Septet in E-flat major, Op. 20; and the Razumovsky String Quartet in C Major, Op. 59, no. 3.

The two instrumental ensembles performed these masterpieces proudly, beautifully served by the warmly sympathetic church acoustics.

Beethoven’s C Major Quartet (No. 9) is the most popular and arguably the largest of his middle quartets. It received a brilliant reading from the Ariel String Quartet, a group whose international bona fides have gained a foothold in the Chicago area through previous performances at festivals.

When a more penetrating response to the enigmatic harmonies of the introduction to the “Razumovsky” (reminiscent of Mozart’s “Dissonance” Quartet) was needed, the main part of the Allegro vivace was supported at a judicious pace, firm but not frenetic. , fully visualize the individuality of Beethoven’s score.

The balance of violinists Alexandra Kazovsky and Gershon Gerchikov, violist Jan Gruning and cellist Amit Even-Tov was always sensitive, the intertwined lines of the slow movement full of nuanced shades. The foursome resisted the urge to force through the grazioso minuet for superficial effect, and their lively sprint through the fugue finale brought the performance to a viscerally tense conclusion.

If Gerchikov hadn’t told the audience that this lecture was the Ariel Quartet’s first public performance after 456 days of incarceration, you wouldn’t have guessed it based on the above strengths.

The six-part Septet was Beethoven’s most popular work during his career, although he hated it as it became more popular. Oddly enough, it’s far too seldom heard in the concert hall and on recordings, so it was good to come across it in a talk as vivid in its candid essence as the one on Wednesday.

Violinist Vadim Gluzman and colleagues performed Beethoven’s Septet on Wednesday evening. Photo: Mark Hagland

Gluzman’s penetrating yet sweet virtuosity made him the primus inter pares among his well-matched ensemble partners (he threw away his mini-cadences in the finale with appropriate panache). The Adagio placed a graceful emphasis on the inherent cantabile elements, from clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg’s statement on the main theme to the seamless blending of voices that marked the rest of the movement.

The variations came out particularly well, with dialogues between strings (Gluzman, violist Atar Arad and cellist Mark Kosower) and winds (Shterenberg, bassoonist Catherine Chen and hornist Eric Reed) crackling with the lightning-fast rhythmic precision of a table tennis championship. . The other movements were also strong on personality. (Confident double bassist Kurt Muroki completed the ensemble.)

The program started with violinist Arad .’s own letter Toccatina Alla Turk for violin and viola. Inspired by jazzman Dave Brubeck’s classic Blue Rondo a la Turk (part of which is quoted at the end), this puffing moto perpetuo sounded like something Bela Bartok had written in tribute to Paganini. The playful imitation of Arad’s five-minute piece was deftly transmitted by Lisa Shihoten on violin and the composer on viola.

The 2021 North Shore Chamber Music Festival continues with concerts at 7:30 PM Friday and Saturday at Village Presbyterian Church, 1300 Shermer Rd., Northbook.

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