Norton classical music concert, a unique experience

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Now, in its ninth season, the Palm Beach Chamber Music Society presented an evening of Beethoven, Fauré and Schubert on Wednesday at the Norton Museum of Art.

James Ehnes on violin and Inon Barnatan on piano were the guest artists for the evening. It was truly a once in a lifetime performance, and the company, led by Artistic Director Arnaud Sussman and Executive Director Ahmad Mayes, continues to present the best in classical music.

Barnatan immediately stood out on the ” Violin Sonata No.8 in G major, Op. 30, no. 3. ” Where so many eminent pianists pushed their way through such a piece, attributing it to their own style, Barnatan faced the great Steinway and made him bend to his will.

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Norton Concert: Violinist Ehnes plans a sonata recital at the Norton Museum on Wednesday

He maintained weight in his piano touch where Beethoven’s phrases demanded it, and always danced lightly through scales and passages in the upper registers. The audience was treated to a masterclass in piano harmonization, a true representation of Beethoven’s compositional intention. In the allegro assai movement, the measured rhythmic passages were performed with a brilliant touch: Beethoven’s familiar bass rumbles were so balanced, every pitch was expressed, but not all pitches were treated equally, everything as Beethoven had expected.

Ehnes, playing on the 1715 Stradivarius “Marsick” violin, is known for his lyricism and musicality. There were no complacent gestures: every sentence was planned, every moment practiced to perfection.

Communication between Ehnes and Barnatan was clear. In Beethoven’s tempo di minuetto, ma molto moderato e grazioso movement, it became evident that the two performers were becoming a conduit for Beethoven’s intention, rather than stylistic performers.

A haunting performance followed by Gabriel Fauré’s ” Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major, Op. 13 ”. Here, Ehnes and Barnatan took a new approach, singing through the lyrical melodies of their respective instruments, moving with total control and understanding of the piece.

In the andante movement, the dubbing between violin and piano at climaxing moments was beautifully executed, reaching its climax and then falling back into soft nothingness, only to rebuild itself. Audiences rarely have the opportunity to see chamber music performed in such nuance – it was not a passive performance, it was a cult of the art form itself.

The performance ended with the ” Fantasy in C major for violin and piano by Franz Schubert, op. job. 159, D934. ” The allegro presto presented another epic crescendo into nothingness, and the whole hall held their breath – no sound was heard. And, then, of the beautiful silence, the rumbling and thematic colors of Schubert propelled the concert to its end.


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