Artsmash Critic Tim Smith covers classical music, theater and visual arts in Baltimore and beyond

Shriver Hall finds venues for season's remaining concerts

Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Earlier this month, when Shriver Hall Concert Series presented its last event of 2017 — one of the best performances I heard this year, by the way (more on that in a moment) — the organization wasn’t totally sure where all of the season’s remaining subscription concerts would be held while renovations to its home venue at Johns Hopkins University continue into the summer. Everything is now settled.

Audiences will move among three places — Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in Pikesville, which housed the October-to-December events; Kraushaar Auditorium on the campus of Goucher College in Towson; and the acoustically superb Gordon Center for the Performing Arts in Owings Mills. All concerts will be at 5:30 p.m. on Sundays, the usual time and day for Shriver Hall presentations.

The Borromeo String Quartet and pianist Benjamin Hochman will perform Jan. 28 at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation; the program features Dvorak’s A major Piano Quintet, Op. 81.

The inquisitive pianist Pierre-Laurent Aimard will play works by Beethoven, Ligeti and Nikolai Obukhov March 11 at Kraushaar.

It’s back to Baltimore Hebrew Congregation March 25 for the stellar bass-baritone Eric Owens, whose recital with pianist Myra Huang lists music of Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Duparc and Ravel; and May 6 for cellist Truls Mork, with pianist Behzod Abduraimov, for works by Grieg and Rachmaninoff.

The season wraps up May 20 at the Gordon Center, where the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra offers a program of J. C. Bach, Haydn and Mozart.

For all of the upheaval caused by the renovation project, nothing has interfered with what Shriver Hall Concert Series does so well — bring to Baltimore some of the best classical musicians around. This was especially evident a few weeks ago when the series presented Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, Ukrainian-born Australian pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk and Swedish cellist Torleif Thedeen.

Jansen’s flawless intonation and articulation, not to mention her character-rich tone and uncommon spontaneity and incisiveness of phrasing, have made her something of a sensation; her New York performances ste off downright rapturous reviews. No wonder. She’s the real deal.

The violinist and her two likewise gifted colleagues opened the program with a warm-hearted account of Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 1. This isn’t top-drawer Shostakovich, but you could easily forget that in light of such superbly coordinated, colorful, playing.

Jansen and Gavrylyuk captured all the tension, grit, lyricism and subtlety in Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 2, making the score as eventful and gripping as a great novel.

The three artists came together after intermission to play the heck out of Rachmaninoff’s “Trio Elegiaque” No. 2, his dark and powerful memorial to his treasured mentor, Tchaikovsky. It’s an unruly, sprawling score, the kind that convinces some listeners that Rachmaninoff lacked talent, and reaffirms for the rest of us just what an imaginative, soulful composer he was.

I don’t expect to encounter any time soon an interpretation as moving as this one.

On the technical side, there was so much to admire — the superbly judged tempos; the seamless blend of the instruments, especially in passages of dialogue between violin and cello; the way the players achieved the gentlest of pianissimos and almost symphonic fortissimos; Gavrylyuk’s fearless tackling of the extremely demanding keyboard part.

But what really struck home was how the musicians got the heart of this piece — the broken heart, really. Rachmaninoff did not try to hold anything back, especially in the closing minutes, when the music veers from poignant introspection to raging grief and back again. Jansen, Thedeen and Gavrylyuk made every emotion register deeply, sincerely.

This was sublime music-making, and one more testament to the continuing value of Shriver Hall Concert Series.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

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