A great end to the season at the Ladies Morning Musical Club (LMMC) with seasoned chamber musicians in two masterpieces for string quintet and clarinet and a lesser known string quartet.
The LMMC is definitely living a love affair with the Pacifica Quartet, which was on its fourth visit on Sunday afternoon since its founding in 1994. The American ensemble, established at the University of Bloomington, in Indiana, and winner of two Grammy awards, this time was accompanied by a prestigious guest, the aptly named Anthony McGill (the concert took place in the university of the same name!), principal clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, first African-American to obtain such a position in this venerable phalanx.
As the repertoire for string quartet and clarinet is not infinite, the choice of musicians naturally turned to two of the three main works for this formation (with the Quintet in A major, K. 581, by Mozart): the Quintet in B flat major, opus 34, by Carl Maria von Weber, and Quintet in B minor, opus 115, by Johannes Brahms.
However, the concert began with a rather rare concert appetizer: Prokofiev’s Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92, a score composed in 1941 in Kabardy, where the composer had taken refuge to flee the war. Here and there, we hear the sounds of this region of the northern Caucasus.
The first movement was for us the weakest of the concert. As on their recording of the work at Cédille, the Pacifica play this Allegro much too kindly, unlike the Emersons, for example, who do not hesitate to put away the beautiful sound in the locker room to really bite into the rope.
Our reservations are on another level in the next Adagio, too willful to be “adagio”. The final Allegro, played to the snatch, however, finds, in our opinion, the right tone, by giving the opportunity to the best element of the ensemble, the cellist Brandon Vamos – the founding member –, to distinguish himself.
McGill’s first notes in Weber sound like a caress after Prokofiev’s harshness. The sound is never nasal, always round, with almost fluty highs.
The quality of the concert was really going to a crescendo, since the Brahms Quintet, given after the break, really made us frequent ethereal spheres. The tempos of the four movements were all on point, especially in the opening Allegro (some inopportunely splutter there) and the following Adagio, done with real legato and well-sustained triplets.
Only downside: the work particularly exposed the solo violin Simin Ganatra (another founding member) whose intonation did not turn out to be of the best quality…
The LMMC also announced its 2023-2024 season, which will notably feature the famous Jerusalem Quartet and the excellent pianist Javier Perianes.