Fuse Classical Music Review: Music For Food Presents a Sumptuous Musical Feast

The Music for Food concerts are free, but people are urged to contribute cash, checks, or canned goods, a tiny step towards righting “the horrible discrepancies we are living with.”

By Susan Miron.

An earlier Music For Food Concert: Miriam Fried, Lucy Chapman, Paul Biss and Kim Kashkashian.

One of the best concerts of the season was enjoyed by a capacity crowd on Monday, October 17, the first of this season’s four Music for Food concerts, a project led by world-renowned violist Kim Kashkashian. New England Conservatory has generously let the Music For Food musicians use Brown Hall.

Under the creative leadership of Kim Kashkashian, this season’s first Music for Food Concert had an overflow audience. If the generous-spirited Ms. Kashkashian had done nothing but tirelessly organize these concerts this and last year (six concerts at Emmanuel Church), she would have proven herself a truly great Bostonian. Having heard that one in 10 (last year, one in nine now) people in Eastern Massachusetts didn’t know where their next meal was coming from, Ms. Kashkashian mobilized her forces (“We don’t think this is okay,” she quipped) and once again enticed chamber music luminaries to play for free to raise money for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

I suspect none of Monday’s participants needed any prodding. They all seemed thrilled to be playing together with such a enthusiastic audience, many of whom were the players’ students.

These concerts are free, but people are urged to contribute cash, checks, or canned goods, a tiny step towards righting “the horrible discrepancies we are living with.” The program leaflet was a lovely departure from the usual tiresome lists of the musicians’ myriad accomplishments—for that one had to look at their Food for Music website. Instead, a page was devoted to describing the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) and to crediting Ms. Kashkashian’s colleague Carol Rodland’s Rochester-based initiative, “If Music be the Food…” Ms. Kashkashian does her best to deflect attention away from herself and on to the needs of the GBFB.

Ms. Kashkashian’s viola class opened the program, standing in a semi-circle, playing ll of Béla Bartók’s 44 Duos for Two Violas (originally written for two violins). I found these surprisingly beguiling, from “Mosquito Dance” (#22) through “Rumanian Whirling Dance” (#38) . It certainly seemed that all involved, at different intervals, were having fun playing with their friends and teacher.

Following this was one of Mozart’s most glittering gems, the Duo in G Major, K. 423, played by the renowned violinist Miriam Fried and violist Paul Biss (both famous these days for their pianist son, the hugely successful Jonathan Biss). Their performance was absolutely gorgeous, as was their appearance together two weeks ago in Jordan Hall for First Monday.

Finally, as part of a four-concert, Brahms celebration, Brahms Sextet #2 in G Major, Op. 36 received a thrillingly ardent performance by Miriam Fried and Pamela Frank, violin; Dmitri Murrath and Kim Kashkashian, viola; and Marcy Rosen and Deborah Pae, cello. A number of these performers were long-term veterans of prestigious music festivals; few, if anyone, were playing this for the first time. Spirits were high; the performance was spectacular. I don’t remember seeing so many people on stage smiling as a line passed from one to another player. Rosen played the huge cello part magnificently.

There will be three more concerts, all with Brahms—the String Sextet in B-flat Major and the complete Viola Quintets. The dates are December 19, 2011, February 20 and April 16, 2012. Attend if you can; bring canned goods as well as what money you can spare—give up Starbucks for a week if you must.

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