We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Nicholas Phan (photo by Henry Dombey)

We came to last night's Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center's recital to hear tenor Nicholas Phan. Sadly, we could barely hear him. Was it because we were on the wrong side of the hall?  Was it because the horn of Radovan Vlatkovic was insufficiently muted? We do not know but it felt like the two artists were competing to be heard. What we do know is that Mr. Phan used a music score and his contact with the audience was thereby impaired.

This was disappointing because we rarely get to hear this wonderful song, the setting of a text by Ludwig Rellstab.

Oh well! We seldom get to hear chamber music and decided to enjoy the lovely program of Romantic era music by composers who wrote for the voice, and whose instrumental music always brings invented lyrics to our mind's ear.

The program opened with four selections from Dvorák's Slavonic Dances. These pieces put the composer on the map and led to many future commissions. We are glad that he was championed by Brahms or the world would never have heard his fine folk-inspired melodies and compelling rhythms. Gloria Chien tickled the treble ivories while Juho Pohjonen handled the lower notes in this four-handed work. We believe the composer orchestrated the work at the same time.

Star French hornist that he is, Mr. Vlatkovic managed to achieve a better balance with the other instrumentalists in Robert Schumann's Andante and Variations for Horn, Two Cellos (Nicholas Canellakkis and Mihai Marica) and Two Pianos (Ms. Chien and Mr. Pohjonen). This is a lovely work with lots of variety and complex rhythms. At one point we heard a motive from the composer's "Seit ich ihn gesehen" from Frauenlieben und leben. The work is infrequently performed due to the combination of instruments.

The two excellent pianists did well by Schubert in his Allegro in A minor for Piano, Four Hands, called "Lebensst├╝rme" which was composed in "sonata-allegro" form. The two very different themes were woven together with fine craftsmanship and were performed with artistry and excitement.

But the highlight of the evening was the well-known Trio in E-flat major for Horn, Violin, and Piano by Brahms. Again, Mr. Vlatkovic balanced his sound well with that of violinist Paul Huang and pianist Mr. Pohjonen. We particularly enjoyed the rhythmic Scherzo with its graceful trio and the sweetly sad violin line in the Adagio mesto. By the time the trio arrived at the final movement, the audience was in a state of rapture.

We have always loved the sound of the French horn, even when it misbehaves, which it usually does.  Not for Mr. Vlatkovic, however. His superb connection with his instrument whipped that piece of brass into shape.

(c) meche kroop

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