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Review: Artists bring out the beauty of Brahms.

Byline: CONCERT REVIEW By Tyler Kinnear For The Register-Guard

Faces both old and new were featured during Thursday night's concert at The John G. Shedd Institute for the Arts. Visiting cellist Jesus Morales joined clarinetist Michael Anderson and pianist David Riley for an evening of chamber music by 19th-century heavyweight Johannes Brahms.

Brahms' Sonata in E minor for Violoncello and Piano, Op. 38, opened the evening with a surge of energy. This was followed by the introspective, yet tightly woven Sonata in F minor for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120, No. 1. Following a quiet intermission - the turnout was disappointingly one-third the capacity of the hall - Anderson, Morales and Riley collaborated for the conversational Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano, Op. 114.

The Sonata in E minor reflects what some view as a turning point in Brahms' career. It is rooted in the music of the past, namely with quotations from Bach's Art of Fugue, and at the same time exhibits the expressiveness and imaginative quality of mid-19th-century music. The somber opening with the cello was stirring. The sound of the cello in this particular hall had a glowing resonance that nearly made the music overflow with soulfulness.

The first movement demands the cellist to play in far-reaching ranges, cover a variety of tempos, and frequently pass over nonharmonic tones. Morales played with competency in all of these fundamental departments, interpreting this movement with great intensity, but also subtly when necessary. Riley was at full attention behind the piano. His arpeggiated sections were ever accurate. The two performers demonstrated effortless, yet trusting communication.

Movement 2 was like a minuet. Lyrical throughout, it had an exotic twist that was created by the presence of nonharmonic tones. I appreciated the tempo established; it swayed with ease. The trio section, however, I felt lost its balance. This was especially noticeable during the rests.

The final movement begins with a fugal-type "subject" in the piano. Most noteworthy was the drive; the cello under these conditions nearly sounded abrasive. The intensity toward the end of the piece was hypnotizing. Surprisingly, there was room for an accelerando, where both performers kept up with each other with finesse.

Following was the Sonata in F minor for Clarinet and Piano. In this piece the clarinet presents a wide ranging musical tableaux, painted with a blend of colors. The work grows and evolves throughout, from stately to sporadic, and decorative to graceful. Brahms consistently writes jagged gestures in the clarinet, which Anderson interpreted with conviction.

The Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Violoncello and Piano is notable for its structural compression. This presented Anderson, Morales and Riley with bold ideas in the chamber setting. The volume was well balanced. Each player's personality was obvious and enthralling. The piece naturally brings out the dark sonorities of the clarinet. At times, while the clarinet plays obbligato, the cello has soaring melodic lines. Throughout the first movement there is a bittersweet embrace between major and minor.

Movement 2 begins with a lyrical melody in the clarinet. Then, while the clarinet sings, the cello plays pizzicato (the first of the evening). Consisting of unisons, call and response, and echoing of ideas, I found the second movement to be one of the most playful of the evening.

The third movement harkened back to the swing of the second movement of the Sonata in E minor for Violoncello and Piano. However, the phrasing in this movement was more like the movement of a pendulum than a dance.

Movement 4 begins with a descending gesture in the cello. Throughout the work new ideas emerge frequently, nearly interrupting the previous sections. Riley kept the drive on the front side of the beat, while Anderson and Morales threw around rhythmic skips and splashes of melody. The Trio closes with a blunt finish.

The performance was solid. It is a privilege to experience this caliber of artists in Eugene. Brahms, when played this well, offers both a rich, well-grounded sound, while at the same time stirring your emotions on a deeper level.

Tyler Kinnear is a master's student of musicology at the University of Oregon.
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Title Annotation:Reviews; Cellist, clarinetist and pianist join for an intense evening at the Shedd
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Concert review
Date:Apr 6, 2009
Words:689
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