Juilliard String Quartet at Ravinia Festival

The esteemed Juilliard Quartet must be America’s longest-running major chamber ensemble, with a career stretching all the way back to 1946. Today’s lineup is, of course, much younger, although Joel Krosnick has been the quartet’s cellist since 1974. And however one feels about their interpretative sensibility, it cannot be denied that these are serious-minded, virtuosic musicians.

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Mozart Magic: Ravinia Festival

If anything, the orchestral playing grew even more pointed and lively in the Concerto for Three Pianos, an earlier work which, like so much of Mozart’s earlier output, is disarming in its inspired combination of craftsmanship and charm; if anything, the slow movement is even lovelier than that in the later Paris Symphony, although the finale, written in the tempo of a minuet, is somewhat underwhelming and low-energy for a Mozart finale.

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Fray Plays Mozart at the CSO

David Fray

I was highly disappointed that at seemingly the last minute, pianist David Fray chose to substitute for Mozart’s glorious Piano Concerto No. 25 in C the relatively overplayed Concerto No. 20 in D minor. While, like all of Mozart’s late piano concertos, this work is on a very high plane, it arguably lacks some of the scintillating magic of the others; at times it even begins to sound like Mozart is writing in rote-tragic mode. In fairness to Mozart, this evening’s performance did the work few favors. After an expressively wooden orchestral introduction,

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Beethoven 6 at the CSO

In the end, however, it seemed that Mena had just set the metronome at certain level, and was determined not to waver from it. The CSO’s sound certainly benefited from the size of its string section, a marked break from modern convention; but doubling of the winds, in addition would have maintained a better balance. Still, Mena can certainly be very musical at times, and I would not hesitate to say that this concert would have been very much worth-while had I only remembered to arrive after the intermission.

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Muti Conducts Beethoven 4

Muti was more convincing in the Beethoven Fourth Symphony that ended the program. The performance of the Fourth, Beethoven at his most playful, was filled with the same delightfully singing lines and imaginative phrasing heard in the previous pieces – to Muti’s credit, this was clearly a meticulously rehearsed performance – yet there was more real vigor than in the Mozart, even if it was somewhat restrained

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Muti’s Mass in B minor at the CSO

The Mass in B minor is in a sense Bach’s last will and testament, the product of his very last compositional energies before his death in 1750. Its two hour and 45 minute length is certainly imposing; but though not without majesty this work does not have the sublime, cataclysmic qualities of the last monumental works of such later composers as Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven. In its most beautiful moments the Mass in B minor has a sort of divine serenity and languor, as of one who had taken stock of his life’s work, and, in sum, was prepared to leave this world rather contented.

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“La Dulce Vita” – Music of Corelli, Geminiani, Bach, and Locatelli

The Baroque Band, a period-instrument ensemble established in Chicago six years ago by British baroque violinist and conductor Garry Clarke, has entitled the mostly-Corelli program it is bringing around the city this weekend “La Dolce Vita,” after the 1960 film, as part of what appears to be a movie-themed season. While it is unclear exactly what this evening’s concert had to do with the movie in question beyond being (mostly) Italian, the title does reflect the refreshing charm and grace that pervades the music on offer.

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Rachmaninov and Sibelius at the CSO

The highlight of the evening is surely Garrick Ohlsson magisterial performance of the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.3 in D minor, Op.30, often dubbed by its many admirers “The Rock 3”. The first movement, “Allegro ma non tanto” is remarkable particularly for the surprising restraint, and the over all excellent taste of Rachmaninov’s sumptuous orchestration.

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