|Pianist Marc-AndrÃ© Hamelin opened with Beethoven’s A-flat-major Sonata. (Fran Kaufman)|
A rousing program from Concord
CONCORD — The French writer Romain Rolland once likened Beethoven’s creativity to “an eruption of God, projecting the worlds that have been torn from his substance!’’ It was a particularly high-flown way of saying that music creates its own domain, an idea that, as classical music was tasked with more import, became an ideal. At Sunday’s concert by the Concord Chamber Music Society, featuring pianist Marc-André Hamelin, the idea was on varied and stimulating display.
Hamelin opened the concert with Beethoven’s A-flat-major Sonata (Op. 110), in which the composer seems to abandon life’s squalls, finding equanimity by turning inward. This particular traversal was made largely by foot, as Hamelin used an unusually wide range of pedaling to shape the structure: lean sparkle in the opening movement, a blurry wash at the end of the scherzo-like middle bleeding into the wandering Adagio, and gentle cushions for the pealing subject of the final Fugue. The whole was marked by the type of reserve created by the precise application of a formidable technique.
Beethoven’s unconventional transcendence usually closes programs; here, its otherworldliness seemed to bring out similar hermetic qualities in Sergei Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1, with Hamelin accompanying the Society’s director, Wendy Putnam. Prokofiev’s hidden spaces are hardly comforting, though — from the dark corners of the opening, all brusque low strings and evasive figuration, to the eerie, glassy music-box of the Andante, to the hazy landscape of distant bells and icy running scales connecting the outer movements. Putnam favored a slow, muscular bow, erring on the side of edgy pressure. The arid acoustic of the Concord Academy Performing Arts Center — no friend to strings — exacerbated the lack of spin in her tone.
Putnam was in better form in Johannes Brahms’s Piano Quartet (Op. 25), making assured phrases with violist Steven Ansell and cellist Michael Reynolds, with Hamelin again at the piano. Even while displaying a huge range of dynamic and color, Hamelin again managed to project a feeling of restraint, and his rationed elegance provided a dignified scaffolding to the strings and their rich mass. The Quartet mainly creates a province of 19th-century profundity, a self-contained ecosystem of deep thoughts. But Brahms manages a vacation as well, with a finale of holiday gypsy ebullience. The group took off, wickedly fast, shamelessly extroverted, puckishly accomplished. After touring so many pensive lands, why not a bit of escapism?
Matthew Guerrieri can be reached at email@example.com.