The Chamber Music Society of Kumho Art Hall (CMS) was founded in 2007 and is presently a group of sixteen distinguished artists whose mission is to broaden the horizons of chamber music in Korea by performing and mentoring talented young players. Each season, the CMS performs with CMS Junior Members, giving these young talents the opportunity to learn and play with esteemed musicians. Tonight’s program had the Junior Members playing Francis Poulenc’s famous Sextet for Wind Quintet and Piano and the rarely played Dixtuor of Jean Françaix. The Senior Members took on Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) demonstrated his gift for wit, whimsy, and magic in his brilliant Sextet. The light-hearted nature of this work belies its fiendish difficulty; every player must be up to the mark or disaster ensues. There were no worries, as these young players were technically accomplished to a high degree. It seemed that the piece was child’s play for them. The notes were all there, passagework was clear, and the ensemble playing was excellent; a few intonation issues crept in, but these were few and far between. What was missing was the feeling of Poulenc as jaunty raconteur. I suspect this element will come with more experience and performance; the foundation is there in abundance, but it still needs developing. Once this is done, I am sure this ensemble will give an unforgettable performance of this mainstay of the repertoire.
Jean Françaix (1912-1997) is an unfamiliar name to many, which is regrettable given his tremendous output and sparkling style of composition. Being a staunch and unrepentant Neo-Classicist in the time of serialism and atonalism probably has contributed to this. Dixtuor pour quintette à vent et quintette à cordes (Dectet for Wind and String Quintet) was composed in 1987. Scored for two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and horn, it is a work full of youthful optimism. While not as technically demanding as the Poulenc, it still requires top-notch players and has the additional challenge of ensemble and balance issues among ten musicians. Perhaps to highlight the idea of yesteryear, the players performed while standing; in my opinion this neither added nor subtracted anything from the performance. The ensemble captured the essence of this charming work in a way that was lacking in the Poulenc. There was whimsy without being cloying, the lyrical second movement was beautifully played, and the articulation was rendered with laser-like clarity throughout, especially the triplets in the third movement. The final movement built up such momentum that the double bass player inadvertently hit his stand with his bow, underscoring his enthusiasm. My only reservation was at times the strings were somewhat timid and overshadowed by the winds, but all in all it was an inspired performance of an unjustly neglected work.
After intermission, the senior members took to the stage. Music Director Daejin Kim led a bold performance of Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81. Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) showed his devotion to his native land in this masterpiece, using Bohemian folk idiom throughout and the CMS gave it a high-voltage performance. They showed their great understanding of Dvořák’s ideas and projected them with vigor. Other than a small slip where one violin was a fraction of a second early in an exposed section, the playing was extremely polished. The last measures of the finale were played with brio, bringing the work to an exciting close. The large audience responded with loud and prolonged applause, calling the performers back to the stage three times.
As much as I would like to name each and every player for their performance, I will simply congratulate CMS as a whole on a highly successful evening. I hope I have the pleasure of hearing them again in the future.
-Jeffrey Williams for New York Concert Review; New York, NY