Colors of Virtuosity
Fort Worth — On Saturday in the intimate venue that is the auditorium in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presented a concert that is a critic’s dream. While future programs will rely on more traditional fare, this creatively conceived concert featured three rarely heard works by three composers that only remain in the repertoire on the back of one or two compositions — none of which were played here. Read more . . . .
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs for Theater Jones (September 26, 2019)
Welcome to My Music Room
Fort Worth — You have to hand it to the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth. Not only do they bring in some of the most distinguished musicians, but artistic director and violinist Gary Levinson makes a real effort to present eclectic programing that spans the ages from the Baroque to the music of our time. Case in point, this past Saturday afternoon’s wide-ranging concert held in the modest but acoustically acceptable recital in Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The guest artists were the internationally renowned Díaz Trio. Read more . . . .
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs for Theater Jones (September 26, 2018)
Masters of the Medium
Fort Worth — The concert's first half concluded with George Tsontakis's Third String Quartet (subtitled “Coraggio”). Over and above meeting this work's performance demands—from passages of delicacy and beauty to those that, without performers blessed with ESP, ought to be regarded as impossible—imagine the challenge of playing it with the composer sitting twenty feet away from you. Perhaps to confirm Levinson's remarks in the printed program that Tsontakis is a living composer, George (if I may) took the stage during the applause to share the well-deserved ovation. I wonder if he liked the performance better than the 1991 recording of the work by the American String Quartet; I did. Read more . . . .
—Andrew Anderson for Theater Jones (October 27, 2018)
Fort Worth — In spite of Brahms’ immense and enduring popularity with audiences, and his universal acclaim among scholars of music, the presentation of that composer’s String Quintet No. 2 on the same concert with his String Sextet No. 2 is a relatively rare event—and, in the case of the concert by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth Saturday at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, rare and wonderful. Read more . . . .
—Wayne Lee Gay for Theater Jones (November 19, 2018)
The World of Dvořák
Fort Worth — The virtual concert seasons have begun. As performing arts try to save themselves in this COVID-19 era, a wide range of alternative methods are beginning to appear, including drive-in venues. On Saturday, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth chose to keep the intimate nature of chamber music by opening the season with an online concert (it will present online concerts in October and November).
There was a tinge of the familiar because the program originated in their usual venue, the auditorium at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The concert met the high standards we have come to expect from CMSFW ever since Gary Levinson took over as artistic director.” Click here to read more.
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs for Theater Jones (September 15, 2020)
No Translation Necessary
"Fort Worth — As anticipated, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth opened its season with glorious playing and intriguing, thought-provoking repertoire Saturday afternoon at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The totally classy venue provided a perfect backdrop for an almost-all-Russian repertoire devoted, with one short detour, to the two greatest composers of the Soviet era." Read more . . .
—Wayne Gay for Theater Jones (September 19, 2017)
No Translation Necessary
"Fort Worth — I cannot recall attending any concert with a greater contrast than the Oct. 14 performance hosted by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. The first half of the program was Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps (“Quartet for the End of Time”), while the second half was Stravinsky’s L’histoire du soldat (“The Soldier’s Tale”), complete with marionettes." Read more . . .
—Robin Coffelt for Theater Jones (October 21, 2017)
The Many Faces of Romanticism
"Some orchestral musicians are so skilled and influential that their names go into the history books.
In the late 18th century, clarinetist Anton Stadler so impressed Mozart with his playing that the composer created a series of masterpieces for him. A century later, clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld had the same effect on Brahms, who came out of retirement to write another series of masterpieces.
It’s too early to tell whether clarinetist Franklin Cohen will have a history-worthy effect, but he certainly was impressive in a program for the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon. A capacity audience gathered in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum to hear Cohen and a skilled team of colleagues expound their art. Read more . . .
—Olin Chism special to the Star-Telegram (September 19, 2016)
Fort Worth — At first, I thought that whoever titled Saturday afternoon’s concert by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth must have flunked Music Appreciation 101. The booklet proclaimed “The Many Faces of Romanticism,” but two-thirds of the concert repertoire belonged to Mozart and Hindemith, two composers who are never placed in the category of “romantic.”
Indisputable romanticism did indeed opeSln the proceedings, with four pieces from German late romantic composer Max Bruch’s Eight Pieces for Clarinet, Viola, and Piano—a decidedly unique combination of instruments but also an ideal vehicle for the combination of pianist Jihye Chang, violist Richard Young, and clarinetist Franklin Cohen. That Cohen, principal clarinet of the Cleveland Orchestra, is an artist of particularly remarkable gifts was apparent on his first entry with a soaring melody in the Brahmsian Nocturne in B-flat. Violist Young and pianist Chang proved his equals here and in the remainder of this set. Read more . . .
—Wayne Gay for Theater Jones (September 20, 2016)
Slavs . . . with a Twist
FORT WORTH—Shostakovich’s music tends to be rather acidic, more given to sardonic turns than conventional melodic beauty. One might imagine some of it as coming from the pen of Gustav Mahler, had he lived on a few more decades.
But in this case Shostakovich was in a melodic mood: The sonata is lyrical, not modernistic, with a particularly lovely slow movement fronting a playful finale. Bagratuni and Babayan made an eloquent case for the work, with the former’s mournful cello and Babayan’s dirgelike piano commentary two unforgettable high points.
Prokofiev’s turn came with his Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major, Opus 94a. Violinist Gary Levinson joined Babayan for the performance.
In contrast to Shostakovich, Prokofiev was a master of memorable melodies, and this work, familiar in chamber music circles, was no twist to unfamiliar styles. Some of the music was demonic, some jolly, all appealing. The virtuosity of Levinson and Babayan in obviously difficult music was impressive throughout.
—Olin Chism Special for the Star-Telegram (October 16, 2016) Click here to read full review
Fort Worth — On Saturday afternoon, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presented a concert of music by two of the giants of the 20th Century, both Russians and contemporaries: Sergei Prokofiev and younger Dmitri Shostakovich. The concert, held at The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, also featured three Russian-trained artists.
It is often said that artists of the same nationality as the composer can bring some shared affinity to the music. If it was ever true, it is certainly less true in recent times as international travel and worldwide communications meld the regional voices of composers into a more international language. However, Saturday’s performance ably demonstrated that there is something about the training at Russian conservatories that brings special understanding to the musical voice of similarly schooled composers.
Violinist and CMSFW Musical Director Gary Levinson was born in St. Petersburg and was admitted to the Leningrad Special Music School at the age of 5. He finished his training at the Juilliard School in New York City. Currently, as we all know in the Metroplex, he is the Senior Associate Concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony. Pianist Sergei Babayan was born in Guimri, Armenia, studied at the Moscow Conservatory, and now teaches at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Cellist Suren Bagratuni was born in Yerevan, Armenia, and also got his early training at the Moscow and finished at the New England Conservatory of Music.
This affinity to each other and the composer was noticeable right from the start with a highly personal reading of Shostakovich’s Cello Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor. Click here to read full review
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs for Theater Jones (October 18, 2016)
The Lighter Bank of the River Rhein
FORT WORTH — Chamber music audiences hear a lot of string quartets, not only because many prominent composers wrote them but because there are many modern ensembles around in the configuration — two violins, one viola and one cello — to play them.
String quintets are much less commonly programmed, in part because they require that you add an extra viola — or in Schubert’s case an extra cello — to the standard quartet. And finding that extra player can be a bit of a problem.
But the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth made the leap anyway, programming not one but two string quintets — with one quartet as a sort of afterthought — in Saturday afternoon’s concert in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Read more here . . .
—Olin Chism Special for the Star-Telegram (November 13, 2016)
A Feast for the Ears
FORT WORTH —Once again, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth sold out the auditorium in the Modern Art Museum. In an era of lamentation over the proliferation of empty seats at classical music events, this organization is outgrowing its venue.
This fact was especially noticeable Saturday afternoon because of a parking nightmare. The museum’s main lot was closed, and the harried valet attendant had some 20 cars lined up five minutes before the concert was scheduled to start.
However, the performance by the Borromeo String Quartet was worth all of the parking frustration.
The program featured three quartets by very different composers: one each by Haydn and Mozart followed by Ravel’s singular masterpiece. They also played an oddity: a short piece by George Gershwin that served as an amuse-bouche. TitledLullaby, it is really a barcarole with its rocking rhythm. It was an odd addition to the program, but it amply shows Gershwin’s remarkable talent as a composer.
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs Special for the Star-Telegram (January 9, 2017)
Fort Worth—The Borromeo String Quartet, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon, is known for its unusual use of technology. They use laptops or tablets onstage to read from scores or even manuscripts, providing a sense of connectedness with the other members of the quartet. Another innovation is the group’s seating arrangement: while most quartets have the two violinists sitting next to each other, the Borromeo’s seating, from left to right, is first violin, viola, cello, and second violin. This arrangement allows violist Mai Motobuchi to project well, while second violinist Kristopher Tong, facing away from the audience for much of his performance, occasionally turned to face listeners when he especially wished to bring out his part. Read more here . . .
—Robin Coffeltt for Theater Jones (January 10, 2017)
Not Your Parents' Chestnuts
Fort Worth — Does the world need a string quartet transcription of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata?
That’s the question I asked myself going into Saturday’s concert of the Amernet String Quartet, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.
I came out of the concert knowing that, indeed, this particular transcription by Jeffery Briggs does what a transcription is supposed to do: adding new understanding to an existing work and expanding the base of musicians and audience-members who have access to the work.
Even more than that, however, as I stepped into the unseasonably warm afternoon, I knew I had heard an ensemble of remarkable precision, musicality, and beauty of tone.
—Wayne Lee Gay for Theater Jones (February 14, 2017) Read more here . . .
Nationalism Beyond the Nation
"Throughout the revised program, we heard absolutely first-class performances. During the two string trios, it was hard to believe that there were only three musicians playing and not a hidden string orchestra. Intonation and ensemble were excellent, but better, they played with genuine enjoyment and with passion (which was appropriately less in the Beethoven, and then they turned it loose in the Dohnányi).
When Parker joined them for the Brahms, their camaraderie was palpable and they ignited into a quartet on fire.
Read more . . .
—Gregory Sullivan Isaacs special to the Star-Telegram (February 22, 2016)
"Deljavan and Kakouberi sat at one piano to open the program with Schubert’s Fantasy in F minor for piano, four hands, D. 940 (there is a related class of pieces in which the two performers sit at separate pianos; Deljavan and Kakouberi chose the more intimate configuration).
The fantasy is a gorgeous composition, and Deljavan and Kakouberi gave it a subtle, deeply moving performance." Read more . . .
—Olin Chism special to the Star-Telegram (May 14, 2016)
A Study in Contrasts
"In its performance Saturday afternoon hosted by the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, the Montrose Quartet was a passionate technical marvel . . .
. . . the audience sat spellbound after the final notes, holding their applause for what seemed like many seconds.
That is about the highest praise musicians can receive these days."
—J. Robin Coffelt for Theater Jones (February 2, 2016)
Jacks of Two Trades:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth has been on quite a roll the last couple of seasons. The streak continued Saturday afternoon with an impressive assembly of prominent musicians.
All five of the afternoon’s performers joined forces for Schubert’s beloved Trout Quintet, a joyous conclusion to an afternoon of fine music." Read more . . .
—Olin Chism special to DFW.com (November 14, 2015)
Poetry and Industry:
"Technical precision and impressive stamina marked the Berlin-based Atrium String Quartet’s performance at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on Saturday under the auspices of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.
The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth continues to present exemplary chamber music from groups both local and international, in the lovely atmosphere of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth." Read more . . .
—J. Robin Coffelt for Theater Jones (October 9, 2015)
"Under the artistic guidance of Gary Levinson, the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth has developed into a rock-solid presenter of chamber ensembles.
It opened a new season Saturday afternoon with another impressive group, the Atrium String Quartet
. . . . . an exceptional afternoon." Read more . . .
—Olin Chism special to DFW.com (October 4, 2015)
A Pair of Sixes:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth offers an outstanding concert with two violinists, two violists and two cellists." Read more . . .
▬ J. Robin Coffelt for Theater Jones (April 19, 2015)
"While there are many professional string quartets and trios, a sextet (with two each of violins, violas and cellos) has to assemble for the occasion. For this concert, that assemblage was exceptional and the result was nothing short of amazing.
The dynamics never exceeded the composer’s intentions, and the acoustics of the concert hall at the Modern Art Museum warmed the dark sonorities. This was one of those rare magical moments when everything clicked — and we all knew it." Read more . . .
▬Gregory Sullivan Isaacs special to DFW.com (April 18, 2015)
Journeys with the Virtuosi of Italy and Spain:
"There were several unusual things about Saturday afternoon’s program of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth.
One was the presence of a guitarist throughout, on a series that has rarely (if ever?) featured one. Another thing (even rarer) was the presence of a live musician playing music of his own creation.
Then there was the brief passage for castanets — a rather startling and entertaining interposition in a composition out of the 18th century. There was an experiment in narration during one piece." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (February 22, 2015)
Legends of Their Time:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth greeted the new year with something unusual, if not unique in its history: the debut performance of a brand-new professional ensemble.
The three performers once again proved that, despite the newness of their ensemble, they are already masters of musical teamwork." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (January 3, 2015)
Masters of Form and Color:
"Fort Worth — On Saturday the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth brought pianist Alessandro Deljavan back after his disappointing finish in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His playing certainly deserved a better outcome, but his facial grimaces detracted his efforts in the eyes of the audience, and presumably judges as well. A video camera that projected extreme face close-ups non a large screen over the performer didn’t help. In fact, we may not have noticed his expressions at all.
Deljavan appears to have his facial tic under control in this appearance at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. A guest spot with the Fort Worth Symphony, playing Rachmaninoff’s second piano concerto, was astounding. It made our Best of the Year list in 2013. This performance was equally impressive and showed a different aspect—his considerable ability as a collaborative pianist.
The program consisted of two sonatas by Brahms, the second one for the violin and first one for viola. The last work on the program was Dvořák’s piano Quartet in E major, Op. 87. The violinist for the afternoon was Gary Levinson (who is also the Artistic Director); he was joined by violist Michael Klotz and cellist Allan Steele, the new principal cellist in the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. " Read more . . .
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (November 18, 2014)
"Alessandro Deljavan was surely the most easy-to-remember contestant in the 2013 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. His expressive face reflected the intensity of his involvement with the music he was playing. He charmed many people, annoyed a few, but no one could claim that his performances were boring.
Deljavan was back Saturday afternoon to participate in a concert for theChamber Music Society of Fort Worth at the Modern Art Museum. He was joined by violinist Gary Levinson (the organization’s artistic director), violist Michael Klotz and cellist Allan Steele to play music by Brahms and Dvorak. Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (November 16, 2014)
French Romantics Plus:
"Gary Levinson, the Artistic Director of the organization, has drawn on his extensive contacts in the musical world to greatly elevate the level of international reputation of some of the musicians playing on the series while still retaining the use of outstanding local musicians. Along these lines, this program featured pianist Joseph Kalichstein, who is considered to be one of the best of our generation.
. . . the performance of Mozart’s Piano Quartet that opened the program was the best playing of the afternoon. The balance was perfect and all four artists demonstrated a firm understanding of the composer’s style."
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (October 23, 2014)
“One of Mozart’s most radiantly cheerful and melodic moments opened the second concert of the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s 2014-15 season, setting a mood of exuberant music-making for the program at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Saturday afternoon.”
— Wayne Gay for Classical Music (October 19, 2014)
"Saturday’s program, in the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, featured pianist Joseph Kalichstein, whose prominence in the concert world is greater than that of the typical guest of the society. Yet he proved his artistic mettle by blending in beautifully with his musical partners." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for DFW.com (October 20, 2014)
The Unexpected Journey: Paris to Budapest:
“The Amernet Quartet...is one more in the parade of excellent ensembles that the Chamber Music Society has brought to the city recently.
There was much passionate music-making in the Amernet’s performance…” Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (September 22, 2014)
Caviar and Bordeaux:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth ended its season Saturday afternoon with a stellar program of three major works. It was a huge program, with three gigantic works, all of which required mind-boggling technical mastery and, when played together like this, superhuman endurance.
. . . the spontaneous standing ovation at the end showed that the audience was thrilled. It was a far cry from the usual dutiful ovations." Read more . . .
— Gregory Isaacs for the Star Telegram (May 19, 2014)
Seven Last Words of Christ:
The sound filled the room impressively, with the lower notes from the viola and cello coming through with exceptional clarity.
. . . . the performance met all its goals beautifully, with the speakers (who wrote their own parts) doing their jobs as well as the musicians. Read more . . .
— Punch Shaw for the Star Telegram (April 19, 2014)
Seven Last Words of Christ:
Bow strokes were just the right length, crisp without being choppy, and the amount of projection and depth of sound that first violinist Shmuel Ashkenasi achieved with so little bow weight was remarkable in piano and pianissimo sections. Phrase endings were nearly flawless. The Vermeer is the definitive modern interpreter of the quartet version of The Seven Last Words of Christ. To hear them play it for what is likely one of the last times, even without their original cellist, is a great gift. Their best moments Saturday afternoon were breathtaking.
— Robin Coffelt for Theater Jones (April 21, 2014)
Virtuosi of Two Centuries:
"An exceptional virtuoso, clarinetist Julian Milkis, joined a pianist and a string quartet Saturday afternoon and helped steer the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth in a new direction.The Brahms Clarinet Quintet in B minor . . . Milkis’ sound flowed beautifully, and strongly where required. His partners — violinists Gary Levinson and Felix Olschofka, violist Richard Young and cellist Brinton Averil Smith — contributed a flowing performance of their own, whose lyrical character was punctuated by occasional dramatic outbursts." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (March 30, 2014)
Virtuosi of Two Centuries:
". . . this performance had something else; something that a touring group cannot achieve. All five of the players were soon caught up in the performance and that mutual feeling of “wow this is really happening guys” was conveyed to the audience, making us a part of it as well."
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (April 3, 2014)
The Orient Express to Argentina:
The auditorium at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth was filled to capacity for the Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth’s concert on Saturday afternoon.The playing all afternoon was marked with clarity, virtuosity and dead-on intonation. The trio plays together frequently, so the ensemble playing was immaculate.
What was so frustrating about the performance was how excellent it was, exaggerated dynamics aside. The soft passages were magical and the super loud ones were, admittedly, thrilling indeed. The performance brought the audience spontaneously to its feet.
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (February 11, 2014)
The Orient Express to Argentina:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth continued its winning streak Saturday afternoon with its fourth impressive program of the season.
The presence of the Fort Worth Stock Show practically next door to the society’s venue, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, created parking problems, but that didn’t keep the audience from packing the museum’s auditorium to hear music of Dohnanyi, Turina, Piazzolla and Brahms." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star Telegram (February 9, 2014)
Levinson and Friends:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth is an organization transformed. For one thing, the concert at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth on Saturday afternoon was virtually sold out. The reason for this sudden transformation is the appointment of Gary Levinson as the new artistic director and the support he has from the board of directors to move in a new direction.
One aspect that wa noticeable in the performance of the Leclair was hearing Levinson's magnificent Stradivarius . . . Of course, Levinson's skill as a violinist has a lot to do with the amazing sound he produces. . .
Speaking of an amazing sound, violist Klotz produced what is probably the best viola sound in memory. Playing on a modern instrument his sound was huge. . . . You could only marvel at the sound he made every time he played."
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (January 7, 2014)
Levinson and Friends:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth kicked off its new year Saturday afternoon with a hefty program that just about filled the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Concertgoers were rewarded with a varied and vivid performance that was well off the beaten path, even if it included music by very well-known composers."
— Olin Chism for the Star-Telegram (January 4, 2014)
The Atrium String Quartet:
"On Saturday afternoon, a nearly sold out auditorium at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth heard a widely varied program, ranging from the very familiar to rarities. The newly revitalized Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, under the exuberant leadership of Gary Levinson, is fast becoming one of the handful of must-attend concert series for classical music buffs."
— Gregory Isaacs for Theater Jones (November 18, 2013)
The Atrium String Quartet:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth is on a roll. Last month it opened its season with a top-flight ensemble, the Miro String Quartet, and Saturday afternoon it continued with another exceptional group, the Atrium String Quartet." Read more . . .
— Olin Chism for the Star-Telegram (November 17, 2013)
The Miró String Quartet:
"The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth opened a new season under a new music director on Saturday afternoon. To say that the occasion was auspicious would be understating the matter.
It would be hard to devise another program that equaled the combination of high artistic caliber and sheer musical pleasure of this one."
— Olin Chism for the Star-Telegram (October 19, 2013)