Monday, April 27, 2009

Orchestra of St. Luke's - Prévin - 4/26/09

Conductor: André Prévin
Prévin: The Giraffes Go to Hamburg, for Soprano, Alto Flute and Piano - Renée Fleming, Elizabeth Mann and André Prévin
Prévin: Concerto for Violin, Viola, and Orchestra - Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet
Prévin: Arias from A Streetcar Named Desire ("I Want Magic" and I Can Smell the Sea Air") - Renée Fleming
Prévin: Violin Concerto ("Anne-Sophie") - Anne-Sophie Mutter

2009 is not only Mendelssohn's bicentennial, but André Prévin happens to celebrate his 80th birthday as well. After a special performance at the Kennedy Center a couple of months ago, yesterday it was the Orchestra of St. Luke's, with a little help from Anne-Sophie Mutter again, Renée Fleming and a few others, who was throwing a salute concert for him at Carnegie Hall. So it was as good a reason as any to get back on the 95 and the New Jersey Turnpike (Can't say I had missed them, but they're still my main means to my worthy end) and head off for the Big Apple again after a three-week hiatus.

The program was an attractive medley of Prévin's highly eclectic career and started with The Giraffes Go to Hamburg, which had been inspired by Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa, and vividly evoked the state of minds of these gracious animals as they were going to be put in captivity. Sitting at the piano, the birthday composer was aptly seconded by melancholy flutist Elizabeth Mann and a revved-up Renée Fleming.
Composed in 2006 for Anne-Sophie Mutter and Yuri Bashmet, his Concerto for Violin, Viola and Orchestra was a world premiere, and the two musicians got sporadic chances to project their graceful styles, even if the score itself was not particularly challenging. Their conversation was harmoniously performed and made the most of what remained a fairly inconspicuous piece.
After the intermission, Renée Fleming was back for two arias from A Streetcar Named Desire, and seemed to totally relish singing a part for which she was Prévin's first and obvious choice. She clearly immersed herself in the role, even for just a few minutes, and let her voice soaringly convey Blanche's hyper-sensitivity and erratic emotional state.
The last piece was the violin Concerto Anne-Sophie, which he wrote in 2001 for his at the time soon-to-be wife. It is a wonderfully Romantic work, where the violinist got to display her impressive skills at lush lyricism and soaring eeriness, with a few deeply passionate outbursts. A beautiful piece for a beautiful musician.

The Orchestra of St. Luke's is always such a pleasure to listen to that it is very easy to take their remarkable musicianship for granted, and yesterdays' concert was another proof of their incredible versatility and fail-proof excellence. Constantly present but never over-shadowing the soloists, they remained the indispensable element to make it all happen, and enabled us to fully enjoy a very rewarding concert.

National Philharmonic - Borodin, Prokofiev & Tchaikovsky - 4/25/09

Conductor: Piotr Gajewski
Borodin: In the Steppes of Central Asia
Prokofiev: concerto for Violin and Orchestra No 2 - Cho-Liang Lin
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 4 in F minor, Op. 36

I have to confess that I had another Saturday night out when lured by an all-Russian evening I went to Strathmore to hear the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Borodin, who is responsible for what is probably my favorite chamber music piece, his luminous String Quartet No 2, was on the program with his In the Steppes of Central Asia, written as part of the celebration for the 25th year of the reign of Czar Alexander III. A Russian festival wouldn't be complete without Russia's enfant terrible, and Cho-Liang Lin was on hand to play Prokofiev's violin concerto No 2. Last, but not least, Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 4 was scheduled to put a no doubt resounding end to the festivities.

Borodin's sketch was short and gentle, with a distinctive Asian flair to it. Dedicated to his friend Liszt, this atmospheric score is one evoking vast space and natural quietness while also letting off some barely-there soulful melancholy.
Next, Prokofiev's concerto was a radical departure from Borodin's etherality, and Lin's incisive playing emphasized all its idiosyncrasies, be it the technical challenges of the two operatic melodies vying for attention in the Allegro moderato, the romantic lyricism of the Andante assai or the strong Russian flavor and fierce fireworks of the Finale.
It was with its powerful take-no-prisoners fanfare that the full orchestra kicked off a briskly-paced performance of Tchaikovsky's fourth symphony. It can be just a pretty loud piece, its loudness easily overcoming its more subtle moments, such as the sweetly delicate waltz or the quietly spooky pizzicatos, but things were pretty much under control yesterday. The hair-rousing winds and brass timbres were there, but the strings made sure to be heard as well and provided some more introspective moments until the recurring Fate theme made a final comeback, before being finally conquered by a triumphant march. As triumphant as the evening.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Geringas Baryton Trio - Tomasini, Haydn and Rossini - 04/24/09

Tomasini: Baryton Trio in C Major
Haydn: Duetto in D for 2 Barytons, hob. X: 11
Haydn: Baryton Trio in C Major, Hob. XI: 82
Rossini: Duet for Cello and Contrabass
Haydn: Baryton Trio in D Major, Hob. XI: 97

Friday night at the Library of Congress is always a special treat, but yesterday's concert provided pleasure AND enlightment as we were introduced to the baryton, courtesy of Haydn and his employer, Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy. The instrument, a combination of viola da gamba and bandora, or more simply a weird-looking cello, is quite a sight, but its popularity never spread very far. Luckily, we had an esteemed expert in renowned cellist and conductor David Geringas, accompanied by violist Hartmut Rohde and cellist Hens-Peter Maintz, all there to perform three pieces by Haydn as well as some works by his Italian connection, Tomasini and Rossini, for what ended up being an unusual but delightful evening.

Tomasini started the concert and immediately packed an elegant punch. The music was happy and refined, and a nice example of the divertimenti that were all the rage at the time.
During the three pieces by Haydn, one duet and two trios, things got even better. The trios were played with an impressive balance among the three instruments and the richly dark tones were beautifully integrated. The duet was quick-witted and fun.
For me, the highlight came with Rossini and his Duet for Cello and Contrabass, which has been arranged for two cellos by Werner Thomas-Mifune. Obviously drawing from his melodic talent, he wrote a sharp little piece whose spirited banter is occasionally quieted by light-hearted pizzicatos, along with some discreetly lyrical moments for the baryton.

For the encores, we stayed in Italy for a very engaging concerto by Boccherini, and another crowd-pleaser of a divertimento by Paganini. In the course of this joyful piece, the violist finally got to stand up, take center stage and display all his impressive virtuoso skills.

Friday, April 24, 2009

NSO - Webern, Schoenberg & Brahms - 04/23/09

Conductor: David Zinman
Webern: Langsamer Satz
Schoenberg: Verklärt Nacht, Op. 4
Brahms: Symphony No 4 in E Minor, Op. 98

Strings, strings and even more strings. That's what the NSO’s program was promising last night, and by Jove! that’s what they delivered. I have to confess that if it hadn’t been for Brahms’ grand Symphony No 4, I would have been more than hesitant to spend yet another evening in a concert hall, but the outing turned out a complete success. Even if the names Webern and Schoenberg typically do not stir the slightest urge to drop everything and get a concert ticket, the two string orchestra versions of chamber music works from these coetaneous composers were pleasant evocations of the late-Romantic mood that was prevalent in turn-of-the-century Vienna. Visiting conductor David Zinman, back in our neck of the woods years after his tenure as the music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, kept things under tight but generous control, and we did get to hear all those strings splendidly sing.

In the steadily progressing evening, the short piece by Webern was a sparse introduction to bigger things. The Langsamer Satz was slow, indeed, and conveyed the simple joys of life with delicacy and conviction.
After his student’s subtle piece, Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night was another feast for the ears of strings lovers. Inspired by a poem from Richard Dehmel’s collection Weib und Welt ("Woman and World") and originally written as a string sextet, it easily expanded into a gently lyrical depiction of a moonlight night, dripping lush Romanticism all over the place... and some. It is hard to believe that the first performance of this strikingly atmospheric tone poem, in its original form, sparked off riots and controversy, but conservative spirits have never been particularly known for their open-mindedness, have they?
The strings were finally joined by other instruments for Brahms’ final symphony, and worked in perfect unison to make beautiful music together. The first movement grabbed the audience by the throat, and off we went. The second one, a personal favorite, was all warm tones and attractive melodies, but even the last two radiated concentrated energy and remarkable clarity. Famous for its austerity, which owed it some inauspicious beginnings, last night’s interpretation was still no less than inspiring, and we all went home happy.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

NSO - Kellogg, Mendelssohn & Tchaikovsky - 04/18/09

Conductor: Ivan Fischer
Kellogg: Western Skies
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E Minor, Op. 64 - Leonidas Kavakos
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No 5 in E Minor, Op. 64

It was on a beautiful spring evening that I broke the rule of avoiding to go out on Saturday nights and braved the weekend hordes at the Kennedy Center for the noble purpose of hearing Leonidas Kavakos play Mendelssohn's much beloved violin concerto. Of course, having Tchaikovsky's Symphony No 5 on the program did not hurt either, and getting to experience a world premiere about western skies sounded promising. And all these festivities were going to happen under the baton of Ivan Fischer, who has proved a wonderful fit to the NSO, so all was well last night.

Western Skies turned out to be a very nice introduction to bigger things, and was well received by an audience obviously there for the more popular works that were to follow. Colorado composer Daniel Kellogg's vivid evocations of wide-open spaces and even more wide-open skies were easy on the ear and featured big, happy colors and sounds.
Next came the main reason for my presence in the concert hall, and as soon as the hyper-famous soaring first notes of Mendelssohn's radiant violin concerto were heard, one could unmistakeably detect a hushed frisson of irrepressible joy among the concert-goers. Without overly dwelling on the composition's natural lyricism but with steady mercurial precision, Leonidas Kavakos brilliantly got the job done by displaying formidable technique and occasional break-neck urgency. His playing was fluid, the accompaniment by the NSO was solid, and the flawless performance had everybody on their feet right after the last note had faded.
Not surprisingly, Tchaikovsky's fifth symphony was another big hit, and the major reason for it was maestro Fischer's deep involvement and detailed guidance throughout the whole piece. He managed to keep all the different instruments under tight control, but never forgot to let the music breath and expand. Here again, the familiar first notes, the obstinately recurring Fate motto theme, kicked off another take-no-prisoners journey onto a higher ground. After the brooding, eclectic first movement, the second one was the quintessential Tchaikovskian love aria, exquisite without being maudlin, and the Valse a quiet respite before the vigorously triumphant Finale, complete with its grandly resounding, even borderline crassly flashy, coda. More is not always more.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

WPAS - Tokyo String Quartet - Haydn, Beethoven & Schubert - 04/17/09

Haydn: String Quartet in G Major, Op. 76, No 1
Beethoven: String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 18, No 4
Schubert: String Quartet in C Major, op. 163, D. 956 - Lynn Harrell

As heartbreaking as it was to miss Leonidas Kavakos play Tchaikovsky's dazzling violin concerto with the NSO at the Kennedy Center last night, I had to decide in favor of the Tokyo String Quartet when I heard that Schubert's magnificent String Quintet, with no less than Lynn Harrell as the second cello, was on their program. And I get to hear Kavakos play Mendelssohn's equally dazzling violin concerto tonight, which of course means I'll miss Quatuor Mosaïques at the Library of Congress, but let's not dwell on it... By all accounts one of the world's premier chamber music ensembles, the Tokyo String Quartet has gained its pristine reputation by touring and being musically active in various capacities for almost 40 years now, and they're still going as strong as ever. Their special guest, Lynn Harrell, has had just as prestigious a career and doesn't seem to even think of slowing down either. All the better for us.

The concert started with a string quartet by Haydn, which was a graceful introduction to more substantial fare. After a slow and dark beginning, it eventually ended a happy note, and got us in the mood for more.
The string quartet by Beethoven was a pretty energetic affair, easily switching from one mood to another at a sustained pace. It was also quite interesting to see how the former influenced the latter, which was written only two years later.
But the pièce de resistance came after the intermission, and the five musicians demonstrated one more time, as if it were necessary, what a sheer wonder of music, not just chamber music, Schubert's String Quintet in C Major truly is. Retrospectively, it is easy to say that Schubert may have been able to tell his life was getting close to its end and decided to compose a quintet encompassing all his experiences, but while the extra cello does give the piece an overall darker tone, it is also a work exuding life-affirming lyricism, so the debate goes on. One thing, however, is for sure, and it is that from beginning to end the quintet is enough of a wealth of richness and musicality to gloriously fill a short hour of the audience's life, and yesterday's concert was no exception. It is easy to single out the Adagio as the high point because it is such a little miracle in itself, but the whole performance was a real gift that kept on giving. Arigato!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra - Vivaldi & Piazolla - 04/11/09

Conductor: Piotr Gajewski
Vivaldi: The Four Seasons - Nicolas Kendall
Piazzolla: The Four Seasons - Nicolas Kendall

One of the most vivid memories of my childhood was The Four Seasons in quasi permanent heavy rotation on the turntable (Just typing this makes my hair turn gray) due to my mum's unflinching love for Vivaldi's world-famous concerto. The global and constant popularity of this ever-green composition is of course easily explained by the incredibly detailed descriptions conjured up through the vividly expressive score, creating an enchanting world of sounds and visions. Last summer, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performed it with each season neatly interspersed with Piazzola's own seasons, and the result was an irresistible contrast of Baroque's elegant grace and tango's streetwise sensuality, the links between the two pieces being discreet, but unmistakable.

Yesterday, the intermission divided Vivaldi and Piazzola, with the Venetian master in first position. While it allowed for a better flow and understanding of each composition, it was not quite as much fun as the internally combined version. Local boy wonder Nicolas Kendall had the daunting task of soloing in both compositions and good-naturedly delivered the goods with plenty of youthful vitality and natural charm. Spring bristled with nature's rebirth and animal sounds, Summer brought scorching heat and a mean storm, Fall was the time for harvest celebrations and hunting, and Winter had us shiver in the cold wind and warm up by the fire. The easy rapport between violinist and conductor, and a solid back-up from the reduced Philharmonic Orchestra, created a genuinely fresh and totally enjoyable performance of this timeless masterpiece.
After the intermission, we jumped from 18th century Italy to 20th century Argentina and ended up with four seasons adroitly combining classical forms with tango, jazz, and modern harmonies. Piazzola wrote only one movement per season, and those are not as sharply distinct as Vivaldi's since atmospheric changes are not as drastically marked in Argentina, but last night they nevertheless contained various degrees of hotness brilliantly conveyed with a wide range of rhythms and sounds, including a beautifully melancholy cello solo during Fall. It was a feisty mix of languorous and infectious tempos, and smartly ended with a few notes of Vivaldi's Spring. We had come full circle.

But the evening was not over yet, and with the spontaneity of youth and the extensive skills of an old pro, Nicolas Kendall treated us to a short but really fun improvisation, where he demonstrated his talent not only at playing the violin the traditional way, but at using it as a banjo for a few country-infused seconds as well. A quick but very fitting way to end a string-centric evening.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

NSO - All-Brahms - 04/11/09

Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn, op. 56a
Brahms: Ein deutsches Requiem, Op. 45 - Master Chorale Of Washington, Heidi Grant Murphy & John Relyea

Despite a scathing review of the previous night's performance in the Washington Post, I was determined to go and check out for myself Brahms' deutsches Requiem at the Kennedy Center, and I happily found myself sitting next to my equally dedicated friend Pat. Brahms was not a religious man, therefore, he had carefully picked out six universal rather than dogmatic texts from the Bible and decided that they should be sung in his native tongue instead of Latin, the traditional liturgical language. Eventually dedicated to his departed mentor Schumann and his mother, both of whom he was very close to, his Requiem has remained a deeply moving composition of enduring popularity. The added bonus of having legendary Kurt Masur conduct the National Symphony Orchestra was another incentive, and it did not take us long to find out that all the negative fuss was nothing more than just that.

The first piece of the evening was an innocuous but fun exercise, probably meant not to turn the whole concert into an overly brooding pensum. The eight variations of the title, which as it turns out may not have been written by Haydn after all, were attractive studies in various moods of the same theme and ended in an ingeniously recapitulating Finale.
While requiems by definition are not happy-go-lucky music, they do not have to be non-stop depression-inducing works either. Luckily for us, Brahms' Requiem turned out much more life-affirming than expected, and the main reason for that was the wonderfully versatile Master Chorale of Washington, who stayed busy in various combinations pretty much the whole time and handled this daunting marathon with brightly nuanced and powerful singing. While the first three movements evoked suffering and mourning, the other three were all about consolation and celestial bliss, and even the quintessential death-invoking liturgical aria Dies Irae quickly turned into a quietly uplifting ending. The two soloists had little to do, but did it well, especially bass-baritone John Releya whose deep voice masterfully filled the hall. Soprano Heidi Grant Murphy has a melodious but thin voice, which was occasionally covered by the orchestra, but her singing was quite lovely when it managed to rise above the fray. Maestro Masur's hands did appear wobbly at times, but that did nor keep him from assuredly leading musicians and singers into a truly magnificent performance, very much appreciated by the full audience. So there.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Millennium Stage - The Gulport High School Orchestra - Mozart, Bach, Hindmarsh, Vivaldi, Villa-Lobos and Still - 04/08/09

Conductor: Billy Ulmer
Mozart: Divertimento in F
Bach: Concerto in D Minor - Vivace
Bridge/Hindmarsh: Scherzo Phantastick
Vivaldi: Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Violoncello and Orchestra
Villa-Lobos: Bachinas Brasileiras, No 5
Still: Danzas de Panama - Tamborito & Cumbia

My musical week started with a delightful surprise when my friend Patty asked me if I'd be interested in joining her to check out The Gulfport High School Orchestra at the Millennium Stage on Wednesday. This is where she went to high school back in the days (Not that long ago, really) and she was keen on showing them some support while enjoying an early evening musical hour. It's near my office, it's free... and it often features some little-known but amazingly talented artists in various fields of the performing arts. Needless to say she didn't have to twist my arm.

And these high schoolers turned out to be quite engaging musicians. Once one got past their natural adolescent awkwardness, their still developing talent and some hard-to-contain jitters, things went pretty smoothly.
The performance started predictably enough with the sure value that is Mozart, and his Divertimento, while a bit rough around the edges at times, also displayed evident commitment and seriousness from the orchestra members.
The first movement of Bach's Concerto in D Minor featured two violinists, Tristan Harrell and Kristina Russell, who more or less delicately managed to bring out the music's intricate nuances.
The highlight of the hour though, came from the duo of violinist Alba Madrid and cellist Daniel Martinez, who performed a spirited Scherzo Phantastick, which was no short of fantastic indeed after a rather tentative beginning, immediately followed by a lovely concerto by Vivaldi. The dialogue between the two soloists quickly grew more assured and ended up being totally sure-footed.
Widely known as the most important Brazilian composer of all times, Heitor Villa-Lobos wrote various works inspired by Brazilian folk music and the European classical tradition, and the most popular of his Bach-influenced Bachianas Brasileiras, No 5, was a neat introduction to his oeuvre, courtesy of Soprano MaryAnn Kyle.
We wrapped up this too short hour with a Caribbean-colored piece written by "the dean" of African-american composers, Williams Grant Still, who broke racial barriers in the musical world in more ways than one. Tamborito and Cumbia from his Danzas de Panama, inspired by Panamian dance themes, was a fun-filled conclusion to an unplanned but very enjoyable mid-week quickie. Thanks, Patty!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Met - L'Elisir d'Amore - 04/04/09

By Gaetano Donizetti
Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Director: Sharon Thomas
Adina: Angela Gheorgiu
Nemorino: Massimo Giordano
Doctor Dulcamara: Dimone Alaimo
Sergeant Belcore: Franco Vassallo

My Met opera season started last October with Donizetti's gut-wrenching drama Lucia de Lammermoor, so it was only fitting that it would end yesterday afternoon with Donizetti's operatic comedy L'Elisir d'Amore. Moreover, after the three hours of Peter Grimes' philosophical, grim tale last weekend, a little bit of bel canto fun seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. A new opportunity to hear Angela Georghiu is always welcome, but did not quite make up for Rolando Villazon's much deplored absence. I wanted them both!

Although the plot is as light as a feather, it nevertheless kind of holds the road and features a delightful bunch of strong and colorful characters, who yesterday kept on churning out arias after arias with steady aplomb. Yes, it did drag a bit now and then, but there were also a few comically and musically inspired moments, and the whole production was attractive enough to keep everybody engaged, if not enthralled.
Angela Georghiu used her famed supple soprano voice for some exciting vocal acrobatics and was an undeniably lovely, occasionally infuriating, Adina. Massimo Giordano filled in adequately for Villazon, and turned Nemorino into a sweetly hapless but fiercely determined young lad. His Furtiva Lagrima was a truly touching realization that his dream had come true and almost too emotionally gripping a musing for such otherwise standard fare. It easily stopped the show at the first note and had everybody hold their breath before breaking into thunderous applause. Our day was made. Simone Alaimo brought some shameless and well-timed slapstick humor to his scene-stealing Dr. Dulcamara and Franco Vassallo's Belcore was an irresistibly strutting and swaggering sergeant. All things considered, Ms. Georghiu had a quite an impressive line-up of hot-blooded Italians to contend with here!
As always, the Met chorus proved excellent at being a lively but not overwhelming presence. The orchestra, on the other hand, at times drowned the singers in its unbridled enthusiasm, but also efficiently brought out the gorgeous melodic lines of the music under the baton of yet another Italian and bel canto expert, maestro Maurizio Benini.
If the weather was gray and cold outside, the set and costumes were a dazzling explosion of colors and kitsch. The rainbow hues of the paper-cut décor were brightly complemented by the vividness of the outfits, from the scarlet uniforms of the Nutcracker-reminiscent soldiers to the pretty array of more subtle tones in the villagers' clothing. The Barbie-style coach, complete with a revolving Cupid cut-out on top, was appropriately matching the doctor's elaborate look, anchored by a hot pink jacket. It was Candyland à l'italienne!

Donizetti's most consistently popular opera was a fun, if a bit over-saccharined, conclusion of a grand Met season. I shall return.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Emanuel Ax, Yo-Yo Ma & Itzakh Perlman - Mendelssohn - 03/31/09

Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in D Major, Op. 109
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in E Major, Op. 19b, No. 1 (arr. Heifetz)
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in E Major, Op. 38, No. 3 (arr. Patrick Castillo) Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 49
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in C Minor, Op. 38, No. 2 (arr. Castillo)
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in G Major, Op. 62, No. 1 (arr. Castillo)
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in F-sharp Minor, Op. 30, No. 6, "Venetianisches Gondellied" (arr. Castillo)
Mendelssohn: Song Without Words in A-flat Major, Op. 38, No. 6, "Duetto" (arr. Castillo)
Mendelssohn: Piano Trio No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 66

Yesterday afternoon, I took an unusual middle of the week trip to Carnegie Hall, but when the goal is over two hours of listening to the super-star dream team of Emanuel Ax, Itzakh Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma play some of Mendelssohn's most beloved works, it suddenly all makes sense. While any of these gentlemen could have easily justified going the distance by himself, the combination of the three promised no less than to triple the pleasure, and off I went. After all, isn't it what comp time is for?

It is hard to go wrong with Mendelssohn in terms of pure musical pleasure, and his lovely series of Songs Without Words, a genre he and his equally talented sister Fanny invented, was just the perfect mid-week pick-me-up. Composed by the gradually maturing young prodigy over the course of 13 years and striking the right balance of classical and Romantic styles, these brilliant little gems endlessly displayed his trademark delightful freshness and unlimited gift for melody-making. Performed in various combinations, they filled the over-flowing Perelman auditorium with grace and luminosity.
His two piano trios, respectively written in Dusseldorf in 1839 and Frankfurt in 1845, are considerably longer and meatier fare. The three esteemed colleagues and close friends, obviously very comfortable with one another after decades of collaboration, displayed their widely acknowledged talents as both soloists and ensemble's partners to the audience's rapturous appreciation.

Breaking away from Mendelssohn, the loudly begged for encore was, after much spirited debate among the trio, the Andante from Brahms' Piano Trio No 2 in C. As Itzakh Perlman pointed out, "It's the Mendelssohn's year" and "Mendelssohn and Brahms kind of knew each other, so there is a connection". And indeed, Brahms' exquisite piece was a truly delectable way to end an enchanted evening.