It's only natural that big organizations such as
Tanglewood, Caramoor and the Mostly Mozart Festival get most of the attention
in the summer months: They're the redwoods in our area's musical forest. But
every forest needs its seedlings, too, so it's a good thing that smaller
musical institutions, such as Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, continue to
The Players - a loose amalgam of musicians from the disbanded Jupiter
Symphony of the late conductor Jens Nygaard - gave the last of three summer
concerts on Monday at the Yamaha Piano Salon on Fifth Avenue, just a few steps
north of St. Patrick's Cathedral.
The Salon, like the cathedral, is a good place to cool off on a sweltering
summer night, but it may be a little less suited to mass appeal. It is a
showroom, not a concert hall, and the place is cramped. The management adds a
little electronic reverb to enhance the long, flat-ceilinged performance space,
which results in a rich but slightly unreal acoustic. It's as if you're
listening through earphones to a concert being performed only a few feet away.
Two pianists, the young Steven Beck and the youngish Ilya Itin, were the
twin suns of Monday's concert, joined by three satellites in the forms of
clarinetist Vadim Lando, violinist Lisa Shihoten and flutist Barry Crawford.
Beck's impregnable technique and savoir faire mark him as the successor to such
Manhattan piano stalwarts as Christopher Oldfather and Anne-Marie McDermott -
crisp, efficient and knowing artists whose talents enhance any occasion.
I expected a little more from Itin, the first-prize winner in the 1996
Leeds Piano Competition. He has discipline, an elegant manner and a solid tone,
but not much fire. Only in the second movement of Shostakovich's Suite for Two
Pianos, Op. 6, was there a hint of the muscular phrasing and clangorous sound
the piece required.
Beck took the "primo" part in Lutoslawski's coruscating Paganini Variations
and ran with it impressively. Itin took firm command of another and far better
Shostakovich work, the Concertino, which could have been a fragment from the
contemporaneous 10th Symphony.
As the Shostakovich sweepstakes reminded us, Jupiter's penchant for obscure
programming (Romberg's Clarinet Quintet, anyone?) does not always unearth
But two piano trios by the opera composer Gian Carlo Menotti (in which Beck
was joined by the bold and energetic Shihoten and the imposing and expert
Lando) and the film composer Nino Rota (essayed by Itin, Shihoten and the
rich-toned Crawford) proved to be diverting Italian escapades. The Menotti, a
touchingly nostalgic mixture redolent of Debussy, Prokofiev and Poulenc, was
Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players. With pianists Steven Beck and Ilya Itin.
Yamaha Piano Salon, Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Seen Monday.