There was special significance in Thursday night’s Cliburn at the Kimbell concert. In a sense, it produced the first sounds of the 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
The competition proper is still seven months away (to be specific, it begins May 25, 2017), but Thursday’s concert spotlighted the quartet that will be back in Fort Worth to partner the young pianists who make the chamber music phase of the Cliburn. Thursday’s program even included a work that may well show up at the competition: Franck’s Piano Quintet in F minor.
Performing in the Renzo Piano Pavilion of the Kimbell was the Brentano String Quartet: violinists Mark Steinberg and Serena Canin, violist Misha Amory and cellist Nina Maria Lee. Joining them was a past Cliburn gold medalist, pianist Haochen Zhang.
Their program was a mixture of genres. It included one solo piano work, one string quartet, and the Franck quintet for piano and strings.
Zhang’s solo work was another composition not unknown at the Cliburn: Chopin’s Piano Sonata No. 2, the famous “funeral march” sonata. There were times when Zhang’s view of the piece seemed a little hard-edged to me, especially in the opening movement, but in general it got the poetical treatment for which Zhang was notable in his 2009 competition performances.
The Brentano alone played a work that will definitely not be heard during the competition: Beethoven’s String Quartet in F major, Opus 135. This is one of the great masterpieces of chamber-music literature, and it received a masterful performance by the Brentano Quartet, whose playing is notable for its lyric beauty, dramatic sense and spot-on pitch. One ferocious episode in the second movement was especially spine-tingling, and the mournful slow movement was spell-binding throughout.
Franck’s quintet received a performance that was heroic in the outer movements and full of lyric beauty in its slow movement. It was a beautiful example of collaborative art.
The concert will be repeated in the Piano Pavilion on Friday evening. At Thursday night’s presentation, there were a number of empty seats. This is the first example of a Cliburn policy of repeating certain programs, with the pavilion as the standard venue. There will also be one program in Bass Hall and a couple in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth this season.
Brentano String Quartet with Haochen Zhang
- 7:30 p.m. Friday
- Kimbell Art Museum Piano Pavilion, 3333 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth
- 817-212-4280; www.cliburn.org