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REVIEW

Cellist Sébastian Gingras

QUARTET WITH PIANO AT SEASON-CLOSING OAKMONT CHAMBER CONCERT

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, December 13, 2012

Completing a rich 2012 season, the Oakmont Concert Series presented a rare quartet concert Dec. 13 featuring the San Francisco Chamber Players. Marin pianist June Choi Oh, a frequent Oakmont performer with her Tilden Trio, brought along an admirable string company to an audience of 150 in Berger Auditorium.

A Telemann transcription in D Minor opened the concert with march-like playing in a pure Baroque style, the violinist Dan Carlson providing lithe phrasing over the piano’s continuo line. Cellist Sébastian Gingras paced the lively Vivace and the ensemble played the sad but lyrical Largo with minimal vibrato and exact intonation. The unison playing in the finale was exact.

Beethoven’s early E-Flat Major Quartet, Op. 16, came next and was another transcription, the 1797 work originally written for piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn. The present version was arranged by the composer. It’s idiomatic writing, long on repeated phrases and fits the string instruments perfectly. In the Andante Cantabile the piano part becomes more prominent with faint echoes of the Archduke Trio of 15 years later. Ms. Oh played cleanly the many scale passages on the Rondo finale, never covering the strings, and it was an aggressive group approach with slashing bows and proficient ensemble. A lovely work elegantly played.

Following intermission the ambiance sharply changed with Schumann Quartet in E-Flat Major, Op. 47, one of the most popular of all piano quartets. The SFCP began tentatively but quickly delivered the Zwickau master’s surging romanticism and ever-present legato. There was equal distribution of instrumental interest in the Allegro Ma Non Troppo and Ms. Oh adopted a period flourish, adding a short hesitation at the beginning of descending scale passages. The concluding instrumental sforzandos were abrupt and exciting.

The Scherzo, beginning with a toccata and repose sections, was well played as was the glorious and expressive Andante Cantabile. Here violist Jonathan Vinocour had subtle duets with Mr. Carlson, and Mr. Gingras’ melodic projection was graceful and at times forceful.

The Quintet’s finale (Vivace) playing was contrapuntally clear but never brawny, and as in the entire work the prudent execution had the requisite fervor and beauty to elicit a standing ovation.

Vishnu Vishnu contributed to this review.