Mozart: Serenade for Winds in E-flat Major, K. 375
Bartok: Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano
Dvorak: String Quintet in G Major, Op. 77
As much as I miss the wonderful chamber music concerts at the Library of Congress from my Washington, DC days, opportunities to attend excellent intimate performances in New York City are simply too numerous for self-pity. As a case in point, Carnegie Hall tirelessly organizes some not only high-quality but also free concerts in all five boroughs. That’s how yesterday afternoon I found myself in Washington Heights’ lovely Our Saviour’s Atonement Lutheran Church for an eclectic program of Mozart, Bartok and Dvorak by the multi-talented ACJW Ensemble. All the ensemble’s members are alumni or current fellows of The Academy, a program by Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and The Weill Music Institute in collaboration with the NYC Department of Education, and they are firmly dedicated to developing their careers as musicians, teachers and music advocates, all most worthwhile missions if there ever were some.
I am typically not a wind instrument fan, but when Mozart is the composer, I tend to listen and usually end up liking, if not loving. While the man stayed true to his well-known dislike of the flute by not including it, he did wonders with the paired oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns. Performed by the eight tightly united musicians at hand yesterday, the Serenade became a vivacious treat and did not fail to charm even the most unsuspecting listener.
After Mozart’s classicism, we moved right on to Bartok at its most volcanic with his Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano. Clearly inspired by Hungarian folk dances, it is devilishly seductive until the dissonances get to you, and then you get sucked up into it again. The trio onstage put a rhythmically exciting spin, full of energy and ferociousness, and eventually won everybody over.
Then we went back to good old harmonies and finally got to enjoy a glorious festival of strings with Dvorak’s String Quintet in G Major. After coming up with the magic formula for a successful blend of Czech folklore and German Romanticism, he put it to utmost use with this luminously lyrical quintet. Yesterday, the performance of it was viscerally intense and totally thrilling, the perfect way to conclude a much enjoyed concert.