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In performance: Kennedy Center Chamber Players

Web-only review:

Brahms the classicist
by Joe Banno

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players' recital at the Terrace Theater on Sunday painted a convincing portrait of Brahms as a true classicist. The works chosen for the program mostly avoided the tempestuous, ultra-romantic side of his composing persona in favor of more straightforwardly lyrical, elegantly balanced scores -- the calmer and sunnier of his two Cello Sonatas (No. 1 in E-Minor, Op 38); his mellow E-flat Viola Sonata, Op. 120, No. 2; and the D-Minor Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 108, which erupts into mercurial high drama only in parts of the first and fourth movements.
(read more after the jump)

Pianist Lambert Orkis ensured that all three works kept their equilibrium with playing of unfailing lucidity and scrupulous attention to the contrapuntal interplay between his keyboard and his musical partners. In the cello sonata, David Hardy's poised, warm and full-throated tone was ideal for the piece, and the singing line of his phrasing kept the melodic writing always clearly to the fore. The violin sonata received an urgent reading from Nurit Bar-Josef, whose incisive tone and febrile vibrato gave the outer movements a tremendous charge, but who pulled back to a whisper of sound for the more contemplative inner movements.

If the viola sonata was at a lower voltage, that had less to do with Daniel Foster's more cautious, unassuming playing style than with the piece itself -- which, frankly, is more distinctive and engaging in its alternate version for clarinet. The sonata, nonetheless, proved a lovely interlude between the other, more arresting, works.

-- Joe Banno

By Anne Midgette  |  January 12, 2010; 6:15 AM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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Comments

Proposition: Brahms' first cello sonata is really boring. Lugubrious first movement, awkward and pedantic second movement, and there ain't no other movements.

Does anyone else feel this way? I'm reluctant to go to concerts featuring Brahms' first cello sonata (such as the concert reviewed here) just because I fear I'll be rolling my eyes for a third of the program.

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 12, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

(c'mon Anne...I really can't bait you into disliking Brahms publicly again? The first cello sonata is such tempting bait...)

Posted by: Lindemann777 | January 13, 2010 8:42 AM | Report abuse

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