in: Reviews

May 26, 2010

Old But Little-Known Chromatic Club Fullfills Expectations

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In its final concert of the season, the 123-year-old Chromatic Club of Boston presented two fine musicians, violinist Annie Rabbat and pianist Raquel Gorgojo, at the College Club on Sunday, May 23. They offered four pieces, sonatas by Mozart and Brahms, a Slavonic Dance by Dvorák, and a delicious bonbon by Fritz Kreisler.

The Chromatic Club’s mission is “to further the careers of the most outstanding young artists,” and the performers certainly fulfilled their part of the bargain. Rabbat has participated at Ravinia’s Stearns Institute and the Caramoor and Yellow Barn Festivals, among others. She has collaborated with the Cleveland, Takacs and Orion Quartets. Spanish-born Gorgojo studied at Madrid’s Conservatorio Padré Antonio Soler. She is currently pursuing a DMA in Piano Performance at BU.

Their music making was characterized by judicious tempos, good ensemble and a firm sense of form. It’s not easy to capture the nature of Dvorák’s rhythms, and Rabbat succeeded admirably.

From the opening measures of Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major K. 454, we knew we were in firm hands. The Largo was bold, and the Allegro was taken at a nice tempo. The lyrical Andante that followed was interrupted by a minor B section. The finale, marked Allegretto, was taken at clip not too fast, so as to perceive clearly the double upbeat theme.

The Vivace ma non troppo first movement of the Brahms Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, had an exquisite pizzicato section, leading us to the beautiful Adagio-Piu Andante movement. The clipped rhythms of the finale, marked Allegro molto moderato, were not obscured by too much virtuosity, easily blending to the quiet ending.

I have already commented on the Slavonic Dance rhythms. This piece is through-composed. Unlike Brahms, who used traditional melodies for his Hungarian dances, Dvorák composed his own tunes. This particular Slavonic Dance ended on a delicate high note, executed without vibrato.

The program ended with one of Fritz Kreisler’s light pieces, the Miniature Viennese March. All I can say about this perfect period piece is that composers don’t write music like this anymore.

My only complaint was in the scale of the performance. They play in a very bright room, the double-length second floor room at the College Club in Boston’s Back Bay. The players were both playing out, creating a harshness during the forte moments. More audience would have helped, too. A distraction during the playing of the Brahms was an audience member makng a video of the performance, creating an eerie green flash on the piano.

There were exactly 13 people in the audience. (A music friend commented later that there should have been 12, to correspond to the chromatic scale.) This is no doubt due to lack of publicity. I had not heard of the Chromatic Club before and have been in the environs since 1966. In a discussion with President Paul Carlson before the concert, I have learned that they have a new website, still under construction, which is understandable for a club established in 1886 by Edward MacDowell and a few of his students. In its 123-year history, performers have included Olga Samaroff, Amy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, George Neikrug, Emmanuel Feldman and Sanford Sylvan. Check out the season next year. You may be surprised.

Larry Phillips studied music at Harvard, the Montreal Conservatory, and at New England Conservatory. In 1974 he was a prizewinner at the International Harpsichord Competition in Bruges, Belgium.

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