Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung

Recap – CMS Front Row Artists Series Concert #2: Alessio Bax & Lucille Chung Piano Duo

What happens when you put two very attractive, very talented artists together with two pianos and some very challenging music? You get an afternoon of relaxing aural and visual enjoyment. Alessio Bax said, via zoom chat, from Italy, before the concert, “Music provides joy when it’s most needed.” I couldn’t have said it any better.

All in all, this was a master class in chamber music and reminded me of why chamber music is such a unique experience.

This, the second of our Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center  “Front Row National – Artist Series” concerts, featured the husband-and-wife piano duo of Alessio Bax and Lucille Chung along with some other incredibly talented musicians from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.   First on the program was Mozart’s Concerto No. 14 in E-flat Major for Piano and String Quintet.  This is a sublime composition, a landmark in Mozart’s all-too-brief career. As performed by Mr. Bax, in collaboration with violinists Arnaud Sussmann and Bella Hristova, violist Paul Neubauer, cellist Sophie Shao, and double bassist Joseph Conyers – the music swirled and flew like butterflies. The allegro vicace was just that: vivacious and happy;  the andantino was performed as a romantic tone poem,  beauty in musical amber; and the final movement, allegro non troppo was a masterpiece of precision.  All in all, this was a master class in chamber music and reminded me of why chamber music is such a unique experience.

While I admit to being less than a wildly enthusiastic fan of Béla Bartok, his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion as performed by Bax and Chung along with percussionists Ian David Rosenbaum and Ayano Kataoka is definitely worth a second listen. It struck me as incredibly challenging, both for pianists and percussionists, and demonstrated their mastery of the genre. Beginning with dark dissonance, the three movements wound through atmospheric twists and turns with so many key and rhythmic changes it was difficult even to follow. But the last movement had a very strong 1930’s vibe with its whimsical line and rhythm.  Fortunately for me, these concerts are all aired for five consecutive days – I’m planning to learn to speak Bartok!

They have been widely – and rightfully – praised for their talents as solo performers, chamber musicians and duet performers.

The two selections on this program couldn’t have had less in common, but at the end, I came away with tremendous respect for the featured artists.  They are both young, so we will have many more opportunities to hear them perform (and, I hope, see them perform in person here when the pandemic is over).  They have been widely – and rightfully – praised for their talents as solo performers, chamber musicians and duet performers.  Their interpretations are seamless and a genuine joy to listen to.

The next  Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center “Front Row National – Artist Series” program sponsored by the San Antonio Chamber Music Society will be broadcast on September 13, 2020, at 3:00pm (Central Time) and will feature the acclaimed violinist Cho-Liang Lin. Be sure to join us to experience another unique chamber music performance! And by the way, if you would like to help us continue our mission of bringing world-class music to our community,  please consider clicking on the “Donate” button. Thank you!

– E Doyle