A packed house greeted Winsor Music’s Young Artist Concert at St. Paul’s Church in Brookline on Sunday. The program of chamber works by Beethoven, Crozier, and Schumann, featured Wenting Kang (viola) and Tony Rymer (cello), both master’s students at NEC, alongside regulars Eliko Akahori (piano), Gabriela Diaz (violin), Peggy Pearson (oboe).
In the lecture recital format of the evening, each piece was preceded by a brief introduction delivered by artistic director Pearson. First came Beethoven’s familiar Piano Sonata No. 9, here performed in a string quartet arrangement by the composer. In a further twist, Pearson’s oboe took the part of the first violin. As a happy side effect, this helped bring out the intertwining instrumental lines of the Sturm und Drang passages. Kang and Rymer acquitted themselves well in supporting roles, along with Winsor Music regular Gabriela Diaz.
The next work, using the same musicians, was a two-part piece by Daniel Crozier, Masque and Toccata. The titular Masque, described in the program as “a kind of operatic music from a time before opera existed,” would be more accurately referred to as a tone poem for chamber ensemble. This half of the piece, receiving its world premiere, had the audience sitting raptly or leaning-in throughout. It also gave cellist Rymer a number of excellent lyrical passages.
The Toccata, completed a decade earlier, seemed a little out of place in its pairing with the newer Masque. Originally written as a standalone piece for saxophonist Branford Marsalis and a string trio, the Toccata is more improvisatory in character and evokes something of a jazz idiom and aesthetic. (Peggy Pearson’s oboe substituted for the saxophone here.) Although the audience began to fidget during the Toccata portion, the end of the work was greeted with strong and lengthy applause and Masque and Toccata was much discussed during the intermission.
Most of Rymer’s spotlight opportunities came in the final piece on the program, Robert Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor, Op. 110. Here, the difficulty of many passages could be seen and heard in his playing, which was a little stiffer and less expressive than that of his more veteran compatriots. As a developing young artist, though, Rymer displays excellent prospects; the audience certainly expressed no reservations about him when delivering applause.
A weakness of this concert program was that it gave no opportunities for the other featured young artist to shine. This speaks to a larger problem with the repertoire: Wenting Kang performed respectably with the material provided to her, but the composers left most of her musical potential—and that of the viola—untapped. Given the excellent acoustics of St. Paul’s Church for instrumental chamber music, especially lower strings, this was a shame.