incident light

Chamber Orchestra Kremlin, James Dick

Autumnal Beethoven, springy Brahms

October 19, 2012

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin under its music director, Misha Rachlevsky, returned to town on Oct. 14 with the pianist James Dick, a beloved figure in San Antonio but too seldom seen here in recent years.

Their Temple Beth-El concert, this troupe’s fourth for the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, had Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto at its center. The Moscow-based string players held forth in works by Schubert, Tchaikovsky and Brahms.

Mr. Dick, a consistently thoughtful musician, stressed the autumnal qualities in the concerto’s opening allegro. In the compact, intensely concentrated slow movement, Mr. Dick responded to the strings’ accusatory taunts with meditative songfulness at first and turned ever more deeply inward, searching. This is not a showy concerto, nor is Mr. Dick a showy pianist, but he produced luxuriously crafted runs in the outer allegros -- his legato runs were like streams of molten gold.

The Chamber Orchestra Kremlin’s violins fell short of the impeccable intonation and silken finish of previous performances, but the middle and lower strings sounded fine.

Mr. Rachlevsky’s leadership was marvelous all the way through. He had his ensemble spin long, beautifully shaped lines in Schubert’s Quartettsatz. He led a vigorous, shapely account of Tchaikovsky’s Andante Cantabile from the String Quartet No. 1 in D. In Brahms’s Sextet in G. Mr. Rachlevsky knew at every moment how to shape phrases to maximize the kinetic energy, how to bend the tempo to propel the music. Even the slow movement careened irresistibly toward its finish line.

Mike Greenberg