The first classical music concert I ever reviewed was a piano recital by James Tocco in Rackham Auditorium. That was 1983, and Tocco and I were the two youngest people in the hall by a good three decades.
Twenty-eight years later, last June, Tocco and I were not quite the youngest people in the Kerrytown Concert House. The sold-out audience was still full of hair grayer than mine, but most of the performers in the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival’s three concerts were genuine youngsters.
True, Tocco contributed a masterly reading, with cellist Andres Diaz, of Debussy’s Cello Sonata, and cellist Paul Katz offered a commanding interpretation of Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata, with pianist Pei-Shan Lee. And let’s not overlook Anton Nel’s incandescent performance of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
But good as these mature masters were, the real stars of the series of diverse programs and performers were the ensembles of young players–young with all the best attributes of youth: energy, passion, enthusiasm, and killer technique, both collectively and individually. If the music making I heard is representative of the youth of today, classical music’s future is assured.
The Attacca Quartet’s take on Mendelssohn’s E minor String Quartet was incredibly ardent and astoundingly accurate, even in the German Romantic’s trademark supersonic above-the-staff string writing. The Trio Terzetto’s performance of Leon Kirchner’s Piano Trio was just as precise, and so blazingly passionate that it made a persuasive case for the work’s second-hand expressionism. And the Sima Trio’s reading of Mozart’s G minor Piano Quartet, with illustrious violist Kim Kashkashian, was wonderfully sonorous and surpassingly lyrical, even in the dramatic opening Allegro.
But good as they all were, the best performance of the three concerts was the Jasper String Quartet’s stupendous interpretation of Beethoven’s C-sharp minor String Quartet. Through the forty-minute work’s seven continuous movements, from the opening Adagio ma no troppo’s excruciating intensity through the Andante ma non troppo’s sweet and saucy variations to the Presto’s breakneck velocity and the closing Allegro’s slashing violence, the players’ concentration never let up. Their performance was exciting, elating, and ultimately exalted–wholly deserving of the sustained standing ovation it received.
Part of the stated raison d’etre of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival is to showcase both seasoned players like Tocco and young ensembles like the Jasper String Quartet. The idea is worth supporting; the execution is worth embracing; and the tickets are worth purchasing well in advance, because the concerts usually sell out. The Festival–with most of last year’s performers–returns with concerts on June 15, 22, and 24.