The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth closed its season Saturday afternoon with another nod to the Cliburn Competition. The featured pianist was Alexander Shtarkman, who was notable among the finalists of the 1989 Cliburn.
Three weeks earlier Katia Skanavi, another former Cliburn star, was the society's guest. The city's musical community has benefited greatly from the competition.
Joining Shtarkman in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth were violinists Felix Olschofka and Emanuel Borok, cellist Eugene Osadchy and clarinetist Kimberly Cole Luevano. Theirs was a program of remarkable pieces by Beethoven, Prokofiev and Brahms.
The most striking work of the afternoon was Prokofiev's Sonata for Violin and Piano, Opus 80, with Shtarkman and Borok performing. In preliminary remarks, Borok alerted the audience to the fact that this is a rough piece but remarked, "We'll try to do the best we can," which, of course, got a good laugh from the audience.
Whether their performance was "the best we can do" only they can judge, but it certainly was a powerful presentation of a work full of unusual gestures. Three of the four movements are thorny, with the contrasting slow movement a work of haunting beauty.
One remarkable thing about the sonata is the prominence Prokofiev gives to the violin. The pianist doesn't retreat to the position of accompanist, but the violin is a looming presence. With solid support by Shtarkman, Borok gave a magnificent performance full of force, where appropriate, with some hauntingly lyrical passages.
It was a compelling technical and artistic exercise and generated a wish to hear this work again -- soon.
Olschofka and Osadchy joined Shtarkman for Beethoven's Ghost Trio. They gave a well-balanced performance remarkable for dramatic power and subtle, well-judged dynamics.
As usual, Osadchy's cello sound was an appealing ingredient.
A mellow performance of Brahms' Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Opus 114, brought the program to a satisfying conclusion.
Cole Luevano's clarinet beautifully captured the gentle melancholy that pervades the work, and Shtarkman and Osadchy were top-rate partners.