- Written by Rebecca Evans
- Category: Opening Night with Rebecca Evans
- Published: 07 May 2018
Virginia Arts Festival hosted a lovely, varied program of chamber music last Wednesday evening at the Robin Hixon Theater, featuring the Miami String Quartet with VSO principal flutist Debra Wendells Cross and VAF Chamber Music Series Director and pianist André-Michel Schub.
Debra Wendells Cross kicked off the program with a gorgeous tone and smooth runs on Mozart’s Flute Quartet No. 1 in D major. The Miami String Quartet displayed excellent balance and musicianship throughout the work. Violinist Benny Kim captured our attention with his emotive and stunning playing during the final movement, Rondo: Allegro.
Erwin Schulhoff’s Five Pieces for String Quartet functioned as the most interesting portion of the program. Schulhoff’s career was one of many demolished by the Nazi regime; he died in a concentration camp at the age of 48. Violist Scott Lee’s rich timbre during the first movement, Alla Valse Viennese, set the stage for a work full of rhythmic and melodic surprises. Violinist Cathy Meng Robinson’s shining and mysterious moments in Alla Serenata were beautifully toned. Other highlights were the frenzied Alla Czeca, and the stylized anguish of Alla Tango Milonga, in which cellist Keith Robinson (who appears the backbone of the group) reached fervid heights. Robinson spoke of the group’s dedication to the music of Schulhoff and noted he wished they could devote an entire project to his compositions.
Pianist André-Michel Schub commanded the stage for the second half of the evening with the Miami String Quartet on Robert Schumann’s Piano Quintet in Eb, Op.44. Schub was vivacious, thrilling, and intense; he was carried away by the music, but never lost control. Schub has been playing with the Miami String Quartet for many years; he mentioned the Schumann quintet was the first work they performed together decades ago.
Stunning and intimate music-making made Virginia Arts Festival’s evening of chamber music a night attendees will never forget. Schub is retiring from his position as the Connie & Marc Jacobson Chamber Music Series Director after this season. Catch him again at a coffee concert on May 8 in Williamsburg or at the Mozart Celebration on May 11 at the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts. Visit vafest.org for tickets or to see the full schedule.