On Thursday evening, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presented its inaugural concert of the 2013-2014 Late Night Rose series. On the stage of Lincoln Center’s Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Studio, performers put on a delightfully curated show, featuring the works of three lesser-known Western composers: Arthur Bliss, Karol Szymanowski, and Josef Suk.

© Whitney Browne
© Whitney Browne

Beneath the studio’s dim lighting, concert-goers sat at elegantly decorated tables, daintily nursing glasses of wine as host Patrick Castillo provided the full house with a detailed outline of the evening’s program. The intimacy of the venue paired with the evening’s cabaret theme brought a refreshing vibe to the concert’s atmosphere, which served to compliment the revitalizing sounds of the program’s featured composers.

To commence the evening, Castillo invited to the stage performers James Austin Smith (oboe), Nicolas Dautricourt (violin), Benjamin Beilman (violin), Paul Neubauer (viola), and Mihai Marica (cello), for a performance of Bliss’s Quintet in F major for Oboe and Strings (1927).

The composition begins with an Assai Sostenuto – Moderato movement, taking listeners on an episodic journey through Bliss’ keen exploration of melody, harmony, and texture. In the upper strings, Dautricourt and Beilman opened the movement with synchronized ascending and descending melodic lines, which established an ethereal effect. To this, Bliss gradually builds the piece’s layers, adding in the lower strings and, finally, the oboe, which introduces the movement’s driving theme.

The quintet’s distinctive character is very much the embodiment of the English composer’s lifelong influences, including the music of Elgar and Brahms, as well as English and Irish folk tunes and early 20th century American jazz. The first movement is itself a textural experiment, laced with alternating moments of saccharine vibrato, strumming pizzicato, swelling trills, and passionate tremolo in the strings, all of which carry into the subsequent Andante Con Moto and Vivace movements. It was left to the smooth, mellow timbre of Smith’s oboe to provide the performance with a sense of sonic balance and consistency, which he did with great success as he wove through Dautricourt, Beilman, Neubauer, and Marica’s varied textural lines.

Following the quintet was Polish composer Karol Szymanowski’s Nocturne and Tarantelle for violin and piano (1915). Violinist Benjamin Beilman returned to the stage, this time with pianist Gloria Chien, to deliver an alluring rendition of Szymanowski’s virtuosically demanding composition. The two performers took to the stage with great poise, executing every passage with seeming effortlessness and utmost skill.

In listening to this piece, it was quickly apparent that nationalism was at the forefront of Szymanowski’s mind as he worked on the violin and piano parts. In both instruments, the composer interweaves Polish folk styles with lines reminiscent of fellow Polish composer Frédéric Chopin, in whom Szymanowski found great inspiration.

In accordance with the folk themes present in the first two performances, the evening concluded with Czech composer Josef Suk’s Piano Quartet in A minor (1891). Though not as blatant in his musical depiction of Czech nationalism, Suk’s score is undeniably laced with subtle references to Czech folk tradition.

Moreover, as a former student of internationally renowned composer Antonín Dvořák, Suk demonstrates in his music the compositional expressivity and grandiosity of his teacher. Chien, Beilman, Neubauer, and Marica gave a flawless performance of the composition’s Allegro Appassionato, Adagio, and Allegro Con Fuoco movements, skillfully capturing the piece’s emotional variation, textural changes, and harmonic complexity.

Overall, it was clear that the first Late Night Rose program left concert-goers’ palates satisfied with the underperformed sounds of three of Europe’s compositional masters. We can only hope to see more performances like this throughout the rest of the Chamber Music Society’s season.