The MET Orchestra Chamber Ensemble @ Weill Recital Hall

Capriccio, Op.85 – Sextet
Trio for Brass
Brandenburg Concerto No.1 in F, BWV1046

The MET Orchestra Chamber Ensemble: David Chan, Amy J. Kauffman, Caterina M. Szepes, Yurika Mok, Catherine Sim, Julia Choi, Sylvia Volpe & Ann Lehmann (violins), Samuel D. Katz & Mary Hammann (violas), Rafael Figueroa & Dorothea Figueroa (cellos), Daniel Krekeler (bass), Chelsea Knox (flute), Nathan Hughes, Pedro R. Diaz & John Upton (oboes), Anton Rist (clarinet), Dean LeBlanc (bass clarinets), Evan Epifanio & Daniel Shelly (bassoons), Brad Gemeinhardt, Anne Scharer, Javier Gándara, & Barbara Jöstlein Currie (horns), Raymond Riccomini (trumpet), John Romero (trombone), Dimitri Dover (harpsichord)

Reviewed by: Susan Stempleski

Reviewed: 24 January, 2022
Venue: Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, New York City

This diverse MET Orchestra Chamber Ensemble program spanning three centuries opened with a radiant account of the Sextet from Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The serenely pensive single-movement serves as a prelude to the drama and is rich in contrapuntal textures and Brahmsian harmonic gestures. Yhe MOCE musicians brought a wonderful transparency to the music, playing with lyrical grace and just the right note of melancholy. 

Mládí, a wind sextet Janáček wrote just after he had turned seventy and which he described as “a sort of memoir of youth”, had an ill-fated premiere in 1924 when the clarinetist’s instrument malfunctioned and he had to omit the piece’s most prominent note, infuriating the composer. There were no such problems on this evening. Flutist Chelsea Knox, oboist Nathan Hughes, clarinetist Anton Rist, bassoonist Evan Epifanio and hornist Javier Gándara Reed performed the characterful work with flair, with the deep voice of Dean LeBlanc’s bass clarinet adding rich texture.  

Up next a vivacious performance of Vaclav Nelhybel’s three-movement Trio for Brass composed in 1965. Raymond Riccomini’s trumpet, Anne Scharer’s horn and John Romero’s trombone produced flavorful harmonic clashes as they moved in and out of synchrony in the opening Leggiero marcato, and the muted trumpet was particularly haunting in the central Andante moderato. The liveliest moments of the seven-part Finale came during the high-spirited march and the whimsical waltz.

Following intermission came the highlight of the evening: a strikingly vivid performance of Bach’s First Brandenburg Concerto. The playing was precise and enthusiastic from the outset and there were many admirable contributions. Most notable among them were Brad Gemeinhart and Barbara Jöstlein Currie’s agile and elegant horn fanfares in the first movement; Nathan Hughes’s warmly expressive oboe-playing in the second-movement Adagio; David Chan’s long and impassioned violin phrases in the ensuing Allegro; and the wonderful work of the winds in the final dash of dance movements.

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