Porgy and Bess – Summertime & It Ain’t Necessarily So [arr. Heifetz]
Sextet in C, Op.37
String Sextet in D-minor, Op.70 (Souvenir de Florence)
The MET Orchestra Chamber Ensemble: Yoon Kwan Costello, Bruno Eicher & Yang Xu (violins), Zoë Martin-Doike & Mary Hammann (violas), Joel Noyes, Jerry Grossman & Dorothea Figueroa (cellos), Anton Rist (clarinet), Erik Ralske (horn), & Bryan Wagorn (piano)
Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski
Reviewed: 9 June, 2022
Venue: Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York City
This delightful concert brought together eleven members of the MET Orchestra. The evening opened with two of Jascha Heifetz’s transcriptions for violin and piano of selections from Porgy and Bess. As performed by Yoon Kwon Costello and Bryan Wagorn they came off as veritable showpieces, conveying extremely contrasting moods in unique and captivating ways. In the bittersweet lullaby ‘Summertime’, where the violin part stays close to the original melodic line, Costello’s tone was gorgeously languid and lyrical. In ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, the arranger took greater liberties with the tune, embellishing the downright sassy music with an abundance of double-stops, harmonics and slides. Costello gave a dazzling and characterful performance, enhanced by Wagorn’s spirited work at the keyboard.
Next came an especially meaty offering – Ernö Dohnányi’s 1935 Sextet, for the unusual blend of woodwind, horn, piano, and strings, a rhythmically flexible piece masterfully that mines the expressive power of all six instruments through numerous and unexpected changes in mood, direction, and tempo. The MET players openly embraced all the sudden transformations to create an enormously engaging interpretation. Among many notable moments were cellist Joel Noyes’s eloquent delivery of the rolling arpeggios in the opening Allegro, Anton Rist’s elegant clarinet solo in the alluring third movement, and the unforgettably offbeat giocoso Finale where the mischievous melody is run through a range of keys and harmonizations.
Like the Dohnányi, the Tchaikovsky expertly exploits its combination of instruments to great effect. The players delivered a joyfully exuberant rendition, balancing elegance and passion to great effect, particularly in the opening Allegro con spirito. The tenderly beautiful slow movement was distinguished by wondrous warmth of tone from Costello and Zoë Martin Doike’s viola. A joyful rendering of the lilting, polonaise-like third movement led into a Finale sprung with shimmering lightness.