The Concert Hall at Drew University shone brightly once again Saturday evening

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Last April, I drove 80 miles in a hurricane to the cashmere-cosy hamlet of Madison,NJ, to hear the last concert of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s final concert of the season at Drew University. Saturday night, I again innocently set out for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s opening program of the season. Miles South of Route 18, Flashing signs warned of a 20-minute delay due to “A Vehicle Fire”. Dear reader, unlike most delays, this affected both sides of the NJ Turnpike, and it wasn’t a 20-minute delay but one closer to an hour. Needless to say, I reached Drew University about 7:30, when the concert was scheduled to begin, 150 minutes after I set out from home for the 90-minute drive.
 
The evening’s theme was A Rachmaninoff Celebration. Unfortunately, I completely missed the first piece on the program by Anton Rubenstein. I was lucky enough to watch and hear violinist Benjamin Beilman and pianist Gilles Vonsattel begin their Tchaikovsky piece on a TV monitor. I was able to enter the lovely hall to experience the thrilling next two movements of Souvenir d’un lieu cher for Violin and Piano, Op. 42 (1878) by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1829-1894).  Mr. Beilman, with his athletic, young, handsome presence and incandescent playing riveted all sensitive souls enraptured by his artistry. The handsome, young Mr. Vonsattel on piano was no less splendid in his partnering. 
 
Next, we had soprano Erika Baikoff partnered with pianist Gilles Vonsattel in a group of Russian songs. Frankly, they were all slight pieces without much character beyond their naive charm. Ms. Baikoff sang with gusto and conviction throughout. As a Lindemann Young Artist at the Metropolitan Opera, she has clothed herself in accolades from the Metropolitan and from other awards she has also won.
 
After the Intermission, we were gifted with a muscular, gripping, sometimes violent realization of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque in D minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 9 (1893, revised 1917). Absolutely amazing! As one could imagine, legendary pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1973) made an artistic statement for the piano. Mr. Vonsattel played with abandon one minute, then with melting tone another minute. The wizardry of Mr. Beilman returned to fiercely attack passages sometimes like a charging hippopotamus, then with honeyed sweetness at other times which proved rapturous. Joining the two demigods was a third in the presence of the esteemed Clive Greensmith on cello. He was no less splendid in his sound orbit as his two incredible colleagues. This was music making of the highest order. Corneas were singed with the full Apollonian force of their playing, as we were all close indeed to Semele’s fate of being obliterated by the startling puissance of these three men.
 
The audience was enthusiastic in their acclaim, even rising to their feet after the three men were recalled to bathe in our outpouring of esteem for their sharing of their incomparable gift. 
 
Exiting the theatre as if on air, we saw that the Moon positioned herself above the Concert Hall, beaming brightly to thank the three humans touched by Apollo’s fire and Dionysos’ ecstasy. 
 
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center will return twice more during their 2023-2024 Season at The Concert Hall at Drew University, 30 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. “Extraordinary Imagination” will be the theme for February 5, while the final evening of the season will be April 20, “A Tale of Three Trios.” For information about these concerts, and their New York City concerts, call 212-875-5788, or visit 

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