Review of Carmel Chamber Players
I enjoy walking the beach and enjoy the many trails we have in the Monterey area. Even so, I passed up my afternoon walk on Sunday, October 27, 2019 to attend a wonderful concert. I am so glad I took the time to sit still and experience an afternoon of chamber music by the Carmel Chamber Players. This, incidentally, is the debut appearance of this newly founded group. I joined a small group of guests at the Bronson Piano Studio in Carmel Highlands. Chamber music historically has been played and enjoyed in homes, and the living room studio in the home of Lyn and Renée Bronson is a perfect setting. To listen while viewing the trees behind the pianos is always a joy.
On this October weekend, we were treated to three Beethoven Sonatas played by violinist Nicola Reilly, cellist Janneke Hoogland and pianist James Neiman. Each of these musicians is highly skilled on their instrument and proficient in the fine art of playing in small groups. I always marvel at how people playing from a sheet of music with just their own part can weave the music together just as a composer intended, all without a conductor guiding them. The exchange of themes and motifs creates a conversation without words. I find this musical experience is captivating.
To begin, we heard the Sonata in F Major “Spring,” Op. 24, by Beethoven. This complex violin and Piano Sonata is always a pleasure to hear, and I discover something new each time. Nicola Reilly is a pleasure to hear, especially when performing with such an expert ensemble partner as Dr. James Neiman. I have always considered the third movement, Scherzo-Trio, to be an excellent introduction to chamber music for those who have not yet discovered this genre. Janneke Hoogland stepped up next to play Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major Op. 102, No 2, for Cello and Piano again with Dr. Neiman as ensemble partner. As an organist, I always love a good fugue! The final movement, Allegro mosso, allows both instrumentalists to enjoy weaving the subject through all those notes to a wonderful end.
After a brief intermission, we settled in to hear Beethoven’s Piano Trio in C Minor, Op .1, No 3. This work is filled with typical Beethoven idioms, and It takes a high degree of skill to bring the notes on the page to life. Each instrument is given themes to bring out, phrases pick up, counterpoints to complete and harmonies that enfold us. When the musicians achieve a balance, it allows a composer’s genius to challenge and inspire us, and this ensemble created that kind of musical blend. I’m always surprised by the uneasy ending of the final movement. It reminds me that life should never be “finished” but continue on after the last note fades in an unending quest for beauty.
As a finish for the afternoon, Ms. Reilly and Dr. Neiman tugged at our heart strings with a soulful rendition of the Theme from “Schindler’s List” by John Williams. One cannot listen to this melody without recalling the movie’s heartbreaking plot. I always wonder what the great composers, like Beethoven, would have created to complete a film experience. To bring us to the end of the afternoon’s music, Ms. Hoogland then offered an arrangement of Vocalise by Sergei Rachmaninoff for cello and piano. This piece leaves one rejuvenated and with a full heart.
I hope to hear Carmel Chamber Players again soon. The high standards of musicianship and mastery of chamber techniques are a joy to experience. Conversations in the language we know as music are so important to experience. We are so fortunate in the Monterey area that members of our music community open their homes and studios to keep music alive. Thank you to the Bronsons for continuing to encourage us as we explore the music world.