Philip Lewis,
Artistic Director


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Dallas Morning News - Classical Review: Ensemble makes fine work of Mozart, Weber

10:36 AM CST on Monday, February 20, 2006
By OLIN CHISM / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News


Philip Lewis, artistic director of Chamber Music International, has a virtually pristine record for securing exceptional guest artists for his Dallas and Richardson series. Corroboration for this statement was evident at Saturday night's concert in Caruth Auditorium at Southern Methodist University. An outstanding clarinetist joined a group of CMI regulars for music-making that made one temporarily forget the un-Texas-like weather outside.

The clarinetist was Jon Manasse, whose long résumé includes a season as principal clarinetist of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra. His Caruth program included the first-ever Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, Mozart's K. 501, and Weber's Grand Duo Concertante for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 48.

His lyrical and smoothly-flowing performance of both gave the illusion that there are simply no technical problems in either one. It all seemed so easy. Even better, his playing was unfailingly expressive, encompassing an array of varied emotions, from simple joy to subtle melancholy. The songlike character of his playing – and his extraordinary breath control – was reminiscent of the work of the best singers.

This is not to neglect Mr. Manasse's colleagues. For the Clarinet Quintet these included Carmit Zori and Mr. Lewis, violins; Paul Coletti, viola; and Jungshin Lim Lewis, cello. Although the viola and the cello get their turns in the spotlight in this work, the first violin and the clarinet are clearly the ranking participants, and Ms. Zori made an impressive partner to Mr. Manasse with some vivid and lyrical playing of her own. Mr. Manasse's experience as an ensemble player was evident in his fine collaborative work.

For the Weber Grand Duo, Mr. Manasse was joined by a pianist who shares his first name, Jon Nakamatsu. The 1997 Cliburn Competition gold medalist has appeared a number of times with CMI, giving ample evidence of an unusually broad repertory and solid experience as a collaborative musician. His collaboration this time was a little problematic in that the piano at times seemed overbearing. This is uncharacteristic; Mr. Nakamatsu has always been a sensitive musical partner. Perhaps he misjudged the bright acoustics of Caruth; maybe lowering the lid would have helped.

Still, it was an impressive performance by both musicians of a highly attractive work.

Rounding out the program was the Quartet for Piano and Strings, Op. 60, of Brahms. Mr. Nakamatsu was joined by Ms. Zori, Mr. Coletti and Ms. Lewis. Ms. Zori again was exceptional, and Mr. Nakamatsu proved a better-balanced partner. It was quite a dramatic finale to a fine evening.

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