Review by Judith Caldwell
Ensemble Made In Canada presented a program entitled The Romance of Josef Suk at their February 10th concert. An appropriate title so close to Valentine’s Day. The four musicians of EMIC are Angela Park, piano, violinist Eliza Lee, , Sharon Wei, viola and cellist Rachel Mercer. They are rapidly gaining recognition as Canada’s premier piano quartet providing master classes, chamber music coaching and lectures at Universities across Canada and the United States. Their musicianship is always outstanding and on Saturday they presented a varied program mostly from the Romantic Era with a more modern Canadian composition as well.
The concert started with a new performer, soprano Emily Roughley accompanied by Christabel Pinto on piano singing Puccini’s O mio babbino caro from Gianni Schicchi. Roughley has a lovely voice and a charming stage presence but was initially drowned out by the over-loud piano. Pinto recognized this and toned it down enough for the voice to finally shine . Then EMIC performed Gustav Mahler’s only Piano Quartet written when he was eighteen years old and in the throes of unrequited love. The A minor theme has a dark beginning which displays longing but it then becomes demanding, insistent, giving the players a real workout. It was a simply gorgeous piece which should be heard more often.
Next came Romanze for viola & piano by Max Bruch. This is a lovely, very romantic piece expertly played by Park and Wei, who both obviously loved the music. In her introduction, Wei said it was actually written for the viola, not stolen from another instrument. The Canadian composition of the day was Beginnings written by Roger Knox who was in the audience and introduced the work. He said it was a ‘strange’ piece of music in three movements for cello/viola duo. The first and third movements were high pitched and ethereal while the middle movement was deeply energetic. An interesting composition.
Clara Schumann’s Romance for violin and piano completed the first half. It is a shame Clara was so overshadowed by her husband Robert as she was a masterful composer with a great understanding of the instruments for which she wrote. The Romances were lovely romantic songs, bright, playful while prettily hiding complexity with mastery of form which were beautifully played by Lee and Park. After intermission a Romance for cello and piano by Gabriel Faure was harmonious, colourful and full of melody. The pairing of cello and piano gave the music a feeling of intimacy and warmth which nicely belied the snowy day outside.
The final work of the day was Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet, Op 1. He was a Czech composer often overshadowed by his father-in-law Dvorak, but Suk could also write lovely music as EMIC showed with the fresh, lively and exuberant Piano Quartet. The first movement is passionate and dramatic, the adagio is expansive, the final allegro is lively and playful. EMIC clearly loved this work and played it so perfectly that it was a joy to hear. The next concert is on March 31st.