Kronberg Academy soloists shine with a little help from their friends

Sun Feb 23, 2020 at 1:00 pm

The Kronberg Academy is a conservatory outside of Frankfurt. It is tiny—the student body numbers about 30—and specializes in preparing young violinists, violists, and cellist for careers as soloists and chamber music players.

This weekend the Kronberg Academy is presenting a compact series at Carnegie Hall showcasing the musical prowess of both students and the faculty who trains them.

Saturday afternoon at Zankel Hall, the faculty were violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Gary Hoffman, two major figures on the contemporary classical music scene. And although the series is titled “Soloists of the Kronberg Academy,” they played supporting roles to a small handful of young musicians.

The program was Dvořák’s Terzetto, Op. 74, Kodàly’s Op. 7 Duo for Violin and Cello and, after intermission, Souvenir de Florence, the string sextet by Tchaikovsky. There was no particular concept other than showing what the musicians could do.

One points out without criticizing violinists Stephen Waarts and Marc Bouchkov that Tamestit was the center of attention in the Terzetto. The viola is an integral part of the ensemble but never a lead voice in this four-movement trio. But Tamestit has enormous musical charisma — beyond the size and projection of his sound there was the suave wisdom he added to every phrase. His harmony and contrapuntal lines were more compelling than many concerto soloists’ leads.

This established a firm distinction between the ringer in the middle and the two young musicians. Waarts and Bouchkov produced a warm, shining tone. There was strong interaction throughout, along with the energy and excitement characteristic of young musicians.

That was the concert’s balance with the seasoning of Tamestit and Hoffman. Time does not always produce maturity, but the accumulation of experiences makes for greater nuance and range in expression. It also takes time to learn some of the idiosyncrasies of notable composers, like the specifically Hungarian flavor of Kodàly.

His excellent Op. 7 duo is Hungarian in the way that the melodic and harmonic rhythms, and the structure of phrases, follows the rhythms and cadences of the language. Bits that seem wrong-footed just have accents English speakers aren’t used to, and the way Kodàly, like Bartók, will halt a phrase at what seems the moment of greatest intensity, and then circle around to another part of it, is the kind of thinking that comes from a different way of speaking.

Bouchkov played this with Hoffman in an involving performance. The two were slightly subdued through much of the opening Allegro serioso, but the level of energy and intensity went up a notch in the Adagio-Andante movement.

There, the music stews in inner thoughts, and it was impressive that Bouchkov found the resources here to stoke the fire. He and Hoffman played Kodàly’s lines with relish, even if they didn’t quite have the full understanding of what makes them so quirky and fascinating. Their engines burned hotter and hotter through the final movement, and the sheer dedicated force of their playing was affecting and satisfying.

Violist Matthew Lipman and cellist Jonathan Roozeman joined the group for Souvenir de Florence — Roozeman played the first chair part. With Bouchkov cueing the downbeat, this was a lively performance. There was a notable contrast between Bouchkov and Roozeman in the Adagio cantabile, where the lead violin and cello take turns with melodic lines: The violinist’s phrasing was fine in a staid, correct manner, while the cellist played his with a confident and refreshing simplicity.

This was another energetic performance, with a bright, full ensemble sound that had a pleasing touch of grain. It wasn’t as technically polished as the other two works — the Allegretto moderato of the third movement was actually faster than the finale’s Allegro vivace, and in that last movement the fugue was muddled — but the spirit and commitment to joy remained superb.

Soloists of the Kronberg Academy concludes 3 p.m. Sunday, in Zankel Hall, with music from Mozart, Dohnányi, and Brahms.

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