Showing posts with label Eliezer Gutman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eliezer Gutman. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Copeland String Quartet Closes Their Season with Brahms

Copeland String Quartet with guest clarinetist Charles Salinger. 
Photo courtesy of Copeland String Quartet.
By Christine Facciolo
Chamber music aficionados packed the pews at the Church of the Holy City on Sunday afternoon for the season-closing concert of the Copeland String Quartet. It was certainly an event worth venturing out for on a rainy spring afternoon, and the musicians appeared quite delighted at the capacity audience.

The main offering on the program was Brahms’ autumnal masterpiece, the Clarinet Quintet, featuring the talents of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra’s principal clarinetist Charles Salinger.

The work was premiered by none other than the Joachim Quartet led by violinist Joseph Joachim with clarinetist Richard Muhlfeld whose playing impressed Brahms so much he came out of compositional retirement to write this enduring masterpiece for him.

This is a difficult work to pull off. Brahms was a master of counterpoint, skilled in the subtleties of rhythm and melody. There’s a lot going in a Brahms composition and unless the players have a broad sense of the work, the result can be turgid and endlessly dull.

Happily, that did not happen here. Copeland turned in an achingly beautiful performance with a lush string sound overlaid by Salinger’s lithe and liquid clarinet. The poignancy of alternating major and minor tonalities was interspersed with decisive declamatory passages. Salinger’s rhapsodic playing over wavering strings in the second movement entered into a shadowy dialogue with Eliezer Gutman’s first violin, colluding in final rising arpeggios. Salinger’s virtuosic command of his instrument revealed itself in the mercurial leaps of the third movement. Gutman navigated his colleagues through some intricate tempi in the fourth movement which also afforded a solo opportunity to cellist Jie Jin.

Music of a very different sort opened the program: Dmitri Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 3, Op. 73 in F major. The Third was the only work composed by Shostakovich in 1946, an indication of the trouble that lay ahead. The Zhdanov Decree was two years away but already the attacks had begun against artists and writers.

The writing in this quartet makes incredible demands on the players. Much of it is set in the instruments’ higher registers and there are instances of soloistic virtuosity that seem at odds with the ensemble playing expected in a quartet. Furthermore, the harmonic language is gritty. Each movement is in a home key but the continuously chromatic writing obscures the tonality.

Copeland offered a most impressive rendering of this emotional work. The players applied a light touch to the almost Haydnesque first movement, took a cautiously restrained approach to the ominous second and unleashed the demonic power of the Scherzo. The last two movements took the audience to an even darker place before settling into an uneasy peace with the three closing F major chords.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Copeland Quartet opens new series at Church of the Holy City

It was a delight to see the Copeland String Quartet in their eleventh year – because you can feel that they have invested enough time to coordinate in that magic extra-sensory perception chamber groups get after years of performing together. 
They courageously chose three pieces by composers not known for their chamber catalogs and the results were mixed.  For me, the Copeland’s interpretation of Hugo Wolf’s wild and raucous Italian Serenade was too tame and too cautious.  Wolf was trying to make music representing a rebellious soldier wooing a damsel aggressively and I felt this damsel would have been underwhelmed.  And yet, the exploration of the unknown was intriguing.
The second piece was a lush, romantic short piece by Giacomo Puccini, Crisantemi, which he wrote for a funeral but which today would be the sort of movie theme patrons buy and take home and play again and again.  The beautiful melodic lines were played freely and with great expression by first violinist Eliezer Gutman and the group provided the support and countermelodies as if they were thinking the same thoughts and breathing the same rhythm. 

The third and last piece on the program was a surprising string quartet which Giuseppe Verdi wrote in Naples while waiting for the soprano in Aida to recover from an illness.  No surprise that this extremely operatic composer wrote a quartet that seemed like an opera.  Tom Jackson, second violin, got to lead the outer movements as if playing the alto role.  The first violin joined the duet and then the strings began to sound like the orchestral part!  The third movement gave cellist Mark Ward a chance to show off the singing high notes of the cello as his colleagues formed a pizzicato accompaniment.

The quartet played an encore which is on their third and latest CD, the Andante Espressivo  movement from Felix Mendelssohn’s Quartet in D Major, Opus 44, Nr. 1.  The group knows this piece well and played it with confidence, yet it seemed still fresh and alive. 

We are lucky to have a quartet with such longevity as the Copeland Quartet, like a fine wine, is definitely improving with age.



Monday, January 25, 2010

Copeland String Quartet at Church of the Holy City

The Mozart String Quartet in A Major, K 464 is a clean composition with variations and cerebral contrapuntal structure which cellist Mark Ward told the audience was a favorite of Beethoven. Beethoven wrote his Opus 18, Nr. 5 quartet as a reaction to this fascination.

No surprise that the complex nature of this work would intrigue the younger composer. The variations of the Andante movement were a great vehicle for hearing the individual voices as well as the cohesive playing of the group. The low hum of the variation led by Mark Ward’s cello was my favorite. The quartet not only kept the general tone fairly quiet, but their ability to match the classical style of sudden piano and forte made the rendition a palate-clearing starter preceding the Brahms dessert.

And a rich, romantic lush Brahms dessert it was. Eliezer Gutman and Tom Jackson, violins, kept their thirds together quietly and beautifully. Charly Salinger’s smooth clarinet tone resonated in the church and the strings matched his dynamics with ease. Salinger’s ability to change register with no strain makes it thrilling to hear the high tones scoop down to low tones. Nina Cottman played strong middle voices with a strong verve. All five players were able to arc phrases as one and managed to pull their volume down one more infinitesimal dynamic as they ended the last movement.

You can now buy Copeland’s new CD and hear them play the Beethoven Opus 18, Nr. 5 live on April 18.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Copeland String Quartet at Church of the Holy City

The Copeland Quartet gave a moving account of String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, Opus 13 by Felix Mendelssohn.

In the fugal section of the second movement, the voices entered with just the right dynamic and articulation. Eliezer Gutman’s control of the high notes over the pizzicato in the Allegro di molto made the melody soar through the church. When the final fugue of the fourth movement wound down and the quartet ended, the audience was hushed for a brief moment before they burst into applause.

The Haydn String Quartet No. 62 in C Major, opus 76, No. 3, the Kaiser, the other piece on their program, proved their prowess. The Allegro, which has a sudden dive into a Scottish bagpipe drone by viola and cello, showed their ability to smoothly transition back to the original theme. The Poco Adagio, Cantabile requires each player to play the tune we now know as the German national anthem, which Haydn wrote for Kaiser Franz Josef of Austria. The cascade of themes and harmonic decoration of the variations was thrilling. And the culmination was the ensemble of the accelerando in the last movement.

The Copeland Quartet has a new web site and they have also recorded a new CD which should be out by early next year.