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The chamber music concerts at Ozawa Hall on Sunday mornings offer the opportunity to hear TMC fellows in pillars of the repertoire as well as rarities and student compositions. On 5 August, clarinetist Michael Rezzo impressed with his exquisite phrasing and lovely tone in Brahms' great Sonata in F minor, Op 120 No 1. He captured the music's introspective pathos superbly. Coached by Emanuel Ax, pianist Yegor Shevtsov conquered Brahms' grandiose keyboard writing but tended to be overpowering. What can be more appropriate for a Sunday morning than a Bach cantata? The moving, serene melodic beauty of Cantata BWV 157 was given an inspired performance by a particularly gifted TMC contingent, coached by John Harbison, once a renowned choral conductor and Bach specialist. Tenor Stephen Ng was agile in the score's coloratura flights in the upper register. The rich bass-baritone voice and eloquent projection of Ulysses Thomas were wonderful to hear. This young singer should have a bright future. The gorgeous tone of Timothy Sawyier on oboe d'amore highlighted the stylish instrumental ensemble -- organist Yana Reznik, violinist Francesca Anderegg, cellist Morgen Johnson, and double bassist Jessica Grabbe.

Five hard working brass players under the Boston Symphony's Peter Chapman had the thankless task of playing student composition fellow Alexandra Fol's Brass Quintet, an inexpressive racket. But composition fellow Kay Rhie's song cycle I Hear the Sound of Trees abounded in lovely, songful and emotive vocal writing in the art song tradition of Ned Rorem. Her beautiful settings of poems by Whitman and A R Ammons were supported by tangy wind and keyboard timbres. Soprano Eve-Lyn de la Haye's sumptuous vocalism was particularly striking in her radiant high register. Sean Newhouse conducted eloquently. The ensemble included such TMC stalwarts as Numata, Kostov, clarinetist Brent Besner, and Angelina Gadeliya, a particularly sensitive pianist.

Debussy's String Quartet in G minor was treated to an ultra intense performance, a veritable x-ray of the score. Violinist Hannah Choi was extremely virtuosic. She clearly is soloist caliber. Violist Leah Swann was highly expressive and emitted rounded, golden tone. The other fine TMC players were violinist Alex Russell and cellist Marie-Michel Beauparlant. There was nothing student like about the invigorating performance of Mendelssohn's Octet in E flat major that concluded the concert. This strong account was filled with constant surprises -- the impetuous opening, the sudden unusual turns of phrase, the infectious verve of the Scherzo, and the headlong vitality of the final Presto. The superb playing and aristocratic musicianship of violinists Rommel Fernandes, Julia D Hunter, Rena Ishii, and Lorna Tsai, violists Sharon Bielik and Jonina Mazzeo, and cellists Christopher Hopkins and Min-Jeong Kang were cause for celebration. Here was a high spirited, modernist, yet elegant reinvention of a repertoire staple.

The Netherlands Bach Society, a stellar European chamber choir and period instrument ensemble, took the stage of Ozawa Hall on 25 and 26 July. Led by the authoritative Jos Van Veldhoven, this ten member choir and twenty-two piece orchestra offered as inspired a performance of J S Bach's Mass in B minor (on 25 July) as I have heard in nearly five decades of concert going. With only two voices to a part, the choir was exquisitely balanced. Contrapuntal lines that often emerge as a blur had extreme clarity and impact. The sheer beauty of the singing of the Netherlands Bach Society Vocal Ensemble was remarkable. Van Veldhoven's springy, bouncy tempos and rhythmic urgency radiated the true joy of Bach. The concluding Dona nobis pacem was overwhelmingly beautiful and moving. All the choirs of the instrumental ensemble were superlative. The rich, stylish violins, divinely ethereal flutes (Rachel Brown and Dorothe Janssens), exquisitely expressive principal oboe (Washington McClain), remarkably accurate and sonorous valveless horn (Vaclav Luks), and peeling, ringing trumpets astounded the senses. There are few period bands that equal this group.

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Copyright © 4 September 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA

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