Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Toledo Symphony opens season with bow to Beethoven

The Toledo Symphony's first Blade Chamber Concert offered a trio of local premieres to an enthusiastic audience in the Toledo Club Sunday night. The performance was a mostly auspicious launch to the new concert season with its tantalizing finale: the TSO debut in Carnegie Hall in the Spring for Music Program next May.

Beethoven, the keyboard phenom and revolutionary Romantic composer, was in the spotlight, with a charming early work - Op. 3, the Trio for Violin, Viola, and Cello - opening the program. The closer was the String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 131, a complex, abstract work of monumental proportion.

Between the bookends was a benchmark work by a 21st-century counterpart to Beethoven: Paul Schoenfield, a keyboard whiz and award-winning composer.

Hard to believe it was a TSO premiere, for Schoenfield's popular Caf Music has become a programming and recording staple around the world. A deconstructionist amalgam of traditional musical styles brilliantly reconfigured, it was performed with astonishing skill and lan by violinist Merwin Siu, cellist Amy Chang, and pianist Michael Boyd.

Noting that it had been on his music stand all summer for practice, Boyd added that frequent playing "never makes it any easier." (Schoenfield, who was honored by his former employer, the University of Toledo, last spring, was not in the house. He was busy performing his Ghetto Music in Ann Arbor with the Michigan Chamber Players.)

But Moore brought it. He was the Caf Music barrista of the keyboard for this concert, and his passion and precision were matched by Siu and Chang.

Can't say the same for the opening Beethoven trio, performed by Rita Lammers, violin, Reed Anderson, viola, and the typically urbane cellist Robert Clemens. Beethoven's late Classical style may have seemed easy, an open-and-shut piece, but this rendition had as many issues as a morning talk show. Intonation, precision, conviction, and balance were in evidence but not in any consistent way.

These are all fine musicians; was the piece simply underrehearsed?

Rounding out the program - and demonstrating how to play Beethoven with respect and spirit - were the TSO string section principals: concertmaster Kirk Toth, second violin Siu, violist Valentin Ragusitu, and cellist Martha Reikow.

Their approach to Beethoven's late, great quartet was direct, deft, and delicate.

Because the piece is performed with no breaks between its seven movements, Siu offered cues to help guide listeners through from the first Adagio ma non troppo to the abrupt and dynamic Finale: Allegro.

A few bobbles near the final cadence could not spoil the effect of this masterpiece, masterfully performed.

Contact Sally Vallongo at

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