French Musician a Disaster in FAQ Concert
Fine Arts Quartet’s final summer concert would have been wonderful, if not for guest clarinetist Michel Lethiec.
French clarinetist Michel Lethiec is artistic director of the Festival Pablo Casals and has played with many orchestras internationally, from the Israel Chamber Orchestra to the St. Petersburg Philharmonic to the English Chamber Orchestra. He has premiered works by such composers as Krzysztof Penderecki and John Corigliano. So his inclusion as guest clarinetist in the final Summer Evenings of Music concert by the Fine Arts Quartet on Sunday seemed to auger for good results. Alas, that was anything but the case.
The Fine Arts Quartet performed what has the potential to be an often done addition to the clarinet repertoire: David Del Tredici’s Quintet for Clarinet and String Quartet “Magyar Madness” (2006). Del Tredici’s clever stop-and-go phrases in the opening movement Passionate Knights: Allegro appassionato were intriguing. Ardent string writing in the movement marked Contentment (Interlude): Allegretto was exceptionally beautiful and masterfully played by violinists Ralph Evans and Efim Boico, violist Juan-Miguel Hernandez, and cellist Robert Cohen. Upon first listening to Del Tredici’s work it was easy to be enchanted by rhythmic expansion and contraction of thematic segments and impressed by broad romantic ideas. I want to hear this piece again and get to know its ins and outs. The final movement, Magyar Madness (Grand Rondo “A La Hongroise”) is quite expansive and perhaps could still benefit some judicious editing lest listeners wander too far off before returning for the work’s exciting conclusion.
Lethiec, however, was a disappointment throughout the program. Non-metronomic, student level technique, an often shrill, honking sound, and silly dynamic contrasts—where huge swaths of notes simply disappeared in the pianissimo passages and fortes were harsh and conspicuously out of tune—painfully marred delightful repertoire. It would be great to hear the Del Tredici again in the hands of the FAQ and a much more refined clarinetist. In fact the entire program really deserved better. It was a testament to the FAQ’s powers of concentration and artistry that they were not driven to distraction by Lethiec.