MCM Review

Musica Camerata Montréal — from left, Luis Grinhauz, Van Armenian, unidentified page-turner, Berta Rosenohl and Sofia Gentile — performing virtually from Montreal Sunday.

MONTREAL — Musica Camerata Montréal closed its 51st season Sunday as it began it, virtually. One of Canada’s finest chamber ensembles, which has performed in Vermont many times, presented two masterful performances of two large-scale seldom-heard Romantic piano quintets.

The Piano Quintet in C Major of Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) proved the more interesting of the two. A great pianist, what fame this younger contemporary of Rachmaninoff and Scriban, has is for his solo piano music.

Compositionally, Medtner’s piano quintet comes down between his colleagues, more adventurous than Rachmaninoff and less personal than Scriabin. Yet the three-movement work remains chamber music in grand Romantic tradition of Brahms. And that’s how MCM played it, delivering the rhapsodic passion with the virtuosity it demands. Despite a little muddiness in the finale, it was eminently satisfying.

The core of Musica Camerata is an Argentinean-born couple that came to Montreal by way of Indiana University where they had studied. Luis Grinhauz, an excellent violinist with a probing musicality, recently retired as assistant concertmaster of the Montreal Symphony. The understated virtuosity of pianist Berta Rosenohl, Grinhauz’ wife, who has performed as soloist with various orchestras including the Montreal Symphony, proved the bedrock of Sunday’s performance.

They were joined by three MCM regulars. Violinist Van Armenian has been a principal substitute at the Montreal Symphony for 17 years, and concertmaster of many other orchestras. Violist Sofia Gentile, who began her career as a member of I Musici de Montréal, is a member of the Montreal Symphony. Cellist Bruno Tobon, the youngest in the group is currently studying with Denis Brott at the Montreal Conservatory.

Max Bruch (1838-1920) is a lot better known, but for his violin concertos. His Piano Quintet in G minor (Opus posthumous) is a big, substantial four-movement work. But, rather than a cohesive statement, it is an episodic work full of beautiful rhapsodic and exciting parts.

Sunday’s performance mined both the beauty and the virtuosity of the work. Particularly rewarding was the rich string sound and passionate playing supported by Rosenolh’s dependable but virtuosic playing.

Hopefully, Musica Camerata Montréal will be able to return to its home for the 2021-22 season, Montreal’s Chapelle historique du bon-pasteur (Historic Chapel of the Good Shepherd). And, oh yes, and that the Canada-United States border reopens!


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