Sextet in E flat, Op.18b*
String Quartet in C minor, Op.51/1
Divertimento in D, K251†
David McCarroll & Itamar Zorman (violins), Hélène Clément (viola), Peter Wiley (cello), Wei-Ping Chou & Patrick Pridemore (horns)*†, Tony Flynt (double bass)† and Mary Lynch (oboe)†
Reviewed by: Violet Bergen
Reviewed: 5 May, 2015
Venue: Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York City
Little is known of the origins of Beethoven’s early Sextet in E flat, which began this concert by musicians from Marlboro Music, the Vermont summer retreat led by artistic director Mitsuko Uchida. Although published in 1810, the Sextet was written around 1795. Its unusual scoring for string quartet and two horns is a surefire set-up for balance problems, and Weill’s intimate acoustic was no help. The flashy horn parts give the feel of a concerto, yet Wei-Ping Chou and Patrick Pridemore sounded constrained and tense. In the opening movement there was noticeable lack of clarity in the horns’ faster passagework, creating a dichotomy between them and the exemplary strings. The players were less at odds in the finale when the hunting calls were executed with greater precision.
Beethoven was the reigning king of the genre at the time Brahms was composing his C minor String Quartet, and his influence is apparent in the work’s structural rigor. The Marlboro musicians gave it a passionate yet sensitive account, playing with a unity of purpose that belied the ensemble’s transience. The youthful players were underpinned by Peter Wiley, whose résumé includes the Guarneri Quartet and the Beaux Arts Trio. Together they created a sublimely blended tone, with the balance carefully considered. The opening Allegro was driving and spirited, the energy remaining fresh for a warm and concentrated ‘Romanze’. The Allegretto took a melancholic turn, the musicians breathing together in perfectly coordinated rubato passages, and David McCarroll’s bowing was notable for its superb fluidity in the Trio. The finale was intense and angry, but its forceful resonance had a multitude of shadings.
Itamar Zorman took over the first-violinist’s chair in the Mozart, his tone smaller than McCarroll’s, but his responsive phrasing made him an ideal leader for this light-hearted work. With the return of the horns, though, balance was again problematic, if less so than earlier. Tutti sections felt unnaturally heavy, the horns dominating, but the music gelled more successfully when it was reduced into subsections of players. Mary Lynch was sublime in her solos, particularly during the graceful Andantino, where she was a wonderful match for Zorman’s sweet timbre.