Last Wed, GH and I heard in Avery Fisher Joshua Bell conduct the Academy of St. Martin in the Field as its new music director. The program was all Beethoven, beginning with the Coriolan overture, continuing with a thrilling performance of the violin concerto, and ending with the Fourth Symphony. The chamber orchestra played with clear precision and exciting dynamics under the baton of a violin. In the non-concerto works, Bell conducted from the seat of the first violinist.
Then, with LW and AG, at Zankel Hall on Saturday, I heard Takács Quartet play Janacek's String Quartet No. 2 "Intimate Letters" (1928), Britten's String Quartet No. 3 Op, 94 (1975), and Ravel's String Quartet in F Major (1902-03). The quartet, originally made up of four Hungarian music students, and named after one of them, now resides at the University of Colorado. Two of its original members remain--Karoly Schranz (second violin) and Andras Fejer (cello)--but the newer members have been with the quartet for at least seven years. Geraldine Walther on the viola had her moments, but Edward Dusinberre on the first violin was stupendous. As AG remarked, the music was not played, it just flew from his fingers. He played on the recording of Beethoven's late string quartets that I own, as did Roger Tapping the violist who was replaced by Walther.
The next night, WL and I heard the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center play a poorly-conceived program of Debussy and Stravinsky. Bent on bringing out the differences between the two composers, the program alternated between lightweight pieces by Debussy and weightier works by Stravinsky. The miscellany of pieces had the unfortunate air of a student recital. I did enjoy Sooyun Kim's sensitive and coloristic performance of Debussy's Syrinx for Flute (1913). After the intermission, Jose Franch-Ballester's clarinet enlivened the performance of Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat for Violin, Clarinet and Piano (1918, arr. 1919). The flautist and the clarinetist came together with other musicians to render a poetic performance of Debussy's Prélude á l’après-midi d’un faune. That and the well-played final piece, Stravinsky's Concerto in E-flat major "Dumbarton Oaks" (1937-38), were already worth the cost of the ticket. More, in this case, was not necessarily better.