BWW Reviews: Mainly Mozart Worships Schubert in Carlsbad
As part of the Mainly Mozart Festival's 25th Anniversary Season in San Diego, residents of Carlsbad were treated to a unique pleasure on Sunday, March 30, when a cadre of chamber music's finest performers performed a program to please Schubert and Mozart lovers alike: Mozart's infrequently performed piano Adagio in B Minor, K. 540, bookended by Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata D. 821, and "Trout" Quintet, D. 667. http://www.mainlymozart.org/concerts/schuberts-beloved-trout-quintet/
Those in attendance were able to worship at the feet of these two musical giants in the airy, cheerful contemporary surroundings of St. Elizabeth Seton Church, picturesquely perched at the top of a treed, flowered hill in Carlsbad. The heavenly setting added to the atmosphere of reverence associated with Franz and Wolfgang and their incalculable contribution to the infinite riches of the chamber music repertoire.
The program opened with the Arpeggione performed by cellist Ronald Thomas. A veteran performer with Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and co-founder and Artistic Director Emeritus of the Boston Chamber Music Society, Thomas dons his many hats as performer, teacher and administrator with great effectiveness. As a prelude to his rendering of the fiendishly difficult work, Thomas explained to the audience the origins of the six-stringed instrument for which Schubert presumably wrote the piece, which resembled a bass viola da gamba and was bowed like the cello but fretted and tuned like a guitar. Schubert's sonata, which was not published until 1871, when the instrument had long been absent from the musical scene and is now most often played on the cello, is notorious in cellist circles for its seemingly constant thumb position. Thomas expertly handled the technical demands of the piece without sacrificing beauty of sound: a true challenge when sitting atop an unforgiving concrete floor.
To morph from accompanist to soloist in quick succession is no mean feat, and pianist Anna Polonsky deserves kudos as the consistent trouper of the afternoon, performing with great expertise in both Schubert works and taking a solo turn in the limelight in the Mozart Adagio. Striking a perfect balance between the sensitivity required in a Mozart solo piano work and the declamatory passion so crucial to portray the darkness of the key of B minor, in which the composer seldom wrote, Polonsky superbly evoked the composer's presumed dark state of mind following a less than stellar success of the 1788 Vienna premiere of Don Giovanni.