Review: Wu Han, David Finckel, et al.

Wu Han, piano
David Finckel, cello
Arnaud Sussman, violin
Paul Neubauer, viola
streamed via Modlin Arts Center, University of Richmond

In the first of four performances from New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center offered online by the University of Richmond’s Modlin Arts Center, the ensemble’s co-directors, pianist Wu Han and cellist David Finckel (who are also spouses), played Beethoven’s Sonata in F major, Op. 5, No. 1, and were joined by violinist Arnaud Sussman and violist Paul Neubauer in Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G minor, Op. 25.

The performances, recorded in what appears to be a home music room with a forest in full bloom outside its glass doors, were high-definition, audially, visually and interpretively.

Han and Finckel have played Beethoven sonatas on several occasions locally, and this performance was quite similar to their past performances – assertive and robust, classical in pacing and stylistic touches, romantic in richness of tone production. The duo nicely sustained momentum and made structural sense of the big first movement, and brought out the folk-dance quality of the rondo that concludes the sonata.

The collective tone usually produced by the society’s ensembles – what I like to call “New York standard” – is best suited to sonically big-boned, expression-rich romantic scores such as Brahms’ Op. 25, and this foursome made quite a meal of the piece, leaning into songfulness of the andante and lyrical sections of the quartet’s outer movements, emphasizing the quicksilver-ish atmospherics of its intermezzo and romping through the Hungarian-rondo finale.

Throughout both performances, instrumental voices were well-deliniated (especially useful in the Brahms) and balances well-maintained (tricky at times in the Beethoven). In the Brahms, group sound at high volume bordered on the congested at times, perhaps because of the intimacy of the space and closer-than-concert-stage proximity of the musicians.

The performance is accessible through 7 p.m. March 8. Other streamed recitals by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center artists begin at 7 p.m. March 12 and 26 and April 2 and 9. Access is free; registration is required. Donations to the Modlin Center are requested. Details: (804) 289-8980; http://modlin.richmond.edu

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