BWW Review: BENJAMIN HOCHMAN WITH NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC ENSEMBLE at Merkin Hall
Work- related injuries can be career-enders in many professions. It's a common occurrence in the sports world, where many a promising player has been permanently sidelined by arm, wrist, or hand problems. Musicians are prone to these injuries as well. From Robert Schumann to Paul Wittgenstein to Leon Fleischer to Lang Lang, pianists have been particularly susceptible to overuse and other injures.
After suffering a hand injury several years ago and a subsequent three year break from concertizing, Israeli-born pianist Benjamin Hochman made his successful re-entry into the New York musical scene on February 17, 2019 at Merkin Concert Hall. Performing with a small ensemble from the New York Philharmonic as part of their ensemble series, Mr. Hochman played with no hesitation whatsoever and certainly did not make things "easy" for himself. His partners for the Piano Quartet No.2 in G Minor, Op.45 by Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) were Ms.Quan Ge, violin, Ms.Dorian Rence, viola, and Ms. Ru-Pei Yeh, cello. In this lush, brilliant piece all of the players were equal. Mr.Hochman's exquisitely delicate yet powerful playing was matched in intensity and beauty by the New York Philharmonic musicians. Welcome back, Mr. Hochman!
Also on the program was Claude Debussy's Piano Trio in G major from 1880. With Mr. Kuan Cheng Lu on violin, Mr. Quiang Tu on cello, and Ms.Hélène Jeanney on piano, this piece sounded nothing like the Debussy we know and love in the twenty-first century. It was more a product of its late nineteenth-century time, with nary a whole-tone scale in sight. Debussy (1862-1918) wrote it when he was eighteen and still, as one critic wrote, in "feet-finding mode." This doesn't take away from the enjoyment the Philharmonic players and Ms. Jeanney found in performing it for this concert. Mr. Tu gave the audience some chills and thrills during his extended solo, and Ms. Jeanney performed with warm, beautifully nuanced energy, as did Mr. Lu in his sinuous violin solo moments.
J.S. Bach's Trio Sonata in C major, BWV 529 (1730?), opened the program. Originally an organ work, it was given a joyous reading by Mr. Kuan Cheng Lu on violin, Mr. Robert Rinehart on viola, and Mr. David J. Grossman on bass. The articulation of each cleanly placed note could be heard in the very lively acoustic of Merkin Hall. All three players seemed to be having a whale of a time playing this intricate work, and the audience had just as much fun listening to it.
The next Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Hall concerts take place on Sunday, April 7 and Sunday, May 26 2019. More information and tickets are available by calling 212-501-3330, online at kaufmanmusiccenter.org, or at the Box Office at 129 W.67thStreet between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.