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Better balance prevailed during the Penderecki Clarinet Quartet, written in 1993. Ms Kam, Ms Leonard and Mr Bruns were joined by violist Hartmut Rohde for this unusual work. Ms Kam produced an amazing variety of sounds from her clarinet, at times leading the strings, at other times following.

Anyone who's ever heard more than one note by Shostakovich should certainly have no hesitation at identifying the Piano Quintet in G minor, Op 57 as his, even after only the first few bars of the extended piano solo which opens the work. The rhythms, the chordal structure and the melodic content all fairly shriek his name as clearly as though it were spelled out in blinking lights above the piano.

To close this evening's concert, Elisabeth Leonskaja joined the Kopelman Quartet for a performance of the work that was one of the high points of this week. After the long exposition by the piano, the strings enter in a sad mode, very reminiscent of the composer's 5th symphony, written three years earlier. The strings became quieter and quieter until they just drifted away into nothingness.

Overall, the work is replete with marks of the composer's unique style: the slashing chords, the eerie high notes -- with no vibrato -- in the strings, the repetitive melodies that become almost grotesque, the martial tempos that run amok before fading away. This was an awesome performance, and the response of the audience warranted an encore: a reprise of the second movement.

Each time I hear any of these five musicians -- in solo or various combinations -- I'm in awe. It's like a master class in how to perform the great Russian musical literature, especially that of Shostakovich.

And there's more to come!

Continue to day nine >>

Copyright © 8 July 2007 Kelly Ferjutz, Bantry, Ireland



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