CMS reflects enjoyably on Beethoven, Mendelssohn, and Jewish themes

11.21.16
Calidore String Quartet
New York Classical Review

It was best not to reflect too much on “Reflections,” the title the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center gave the program it performed Sunday afternoon in Alice Tully Hall.
While one was puzzling over the relationship between a sonata by the young Beethoven and a string quartet by the very young Mendelssohn inspired by the very old Beethoven, one could miss some fine performances.
And in the program’s second half, attractive works by Bloch, Prokofiev and Paul Schoenfield demonstrated how unrelated in style three pieces based on Jewish melodies could be.
No matter—it all made for an agreeably diverse afternoon of chamber music, beginning, as so many programs do, with an early violin-and-piano sonata by Beethoven, in this case Op. 12, No. 3 in E-flat major.
With the titanic sounds of the later Beethoven in our ears, it would be easy to think of a piece like this as a mere appetizer, instead of the ambitious, in-your-face statement it was in 1798. Violinist Ida Kavafian and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott avoided that trap, firing off the first movement’s sforzandos and sudden modulations with gusto (though shortchanging the audience a bit by omitting the exposition repeat).
Beethoven’s slow movements in this period included some of his broadest, deepest, most heart-on-sleeve utterances ever.  They can be hard to hold together in performance, and on Sunday this sonata’s Adagio con molta espressione, while expressively played in its details, lacked the long line that can hold an audience spellbound.
In contrast, the Rondo finale lacked nothing in wit, rhythmic verve, and yes, even the long view to the spirited conclusion.
In his String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13, one heard the 18-year-old Mendelssohn, aflame with the discovery of J.S. Bach and the late quartets of Beethoven, trying on those styles for size. Although we now know those clothes didn’t fit him very well, he was convincing enough in this work to inspire accolades from scholars and audiences ever since.
The quartet is framed at beginning and end by a vibrant Adagio in A major, in which the Calidore String Quartet—Jeffrey Myers and Ryan Meehan, violins, Jeremy Berry, viola, and Estelle Choi, cello—demonstrated its splendidly matched tone, sounding like a single instrument instead of four.
The mode shifted to minor for the first movement’s Allegro vivace and stayed there for most of the rest of the work, both signaling the seriousness of the young composer’s intentions and adding extra bite to his scintillating effects, deftly rendered by the group. Read the rest of the review here