Throughout the Ensemble Connect's marvelous performance of this quintet tonight, the spirit of Bach was ever-present. From the expert pianist Lee Dionne's opening chord, which proceeds to a passage of Bach-like keyboard figuration, Shostakovich seems to me to be constantly alluding to the great Master. A rich string lament rises up: Mari Lee is now first-chair, with Rebecca Anderson her second; Andrew Gonzalez and Madeline Fayette are violist and cellist. Mssers. Gonzalez and Lee engage in a duet; Mr. Gonzalez' very attractive tone then turns to Ms. Lee's high violin for another conversation. Bach hovers in the air. A big lushness and grand tonality give way to a rather melancholy violin duet.
Without pause, a slow Fugue follows; the piano enters in the low range, the strings exchange phrases, and things turn rather loud and angular. A dusky passage from Ms. Fayette's cello carries the movement to a beautifully modulated close.
Scherzo! A rollicking song, with Mr. Lee at the piano holding forth while the strings carry on with a boisterous accompaniment. A violin dance-motif passes to the viola, then everyone joins in a relentless tutti. As this movement progressed, I was smiling to myself: both for the cordiality of the music and the wonderful playing of it tonight.
The Intermezzo again brings Bach to mind: a pacing cello underlines a violin melody. The viola joins the violin, as if slow-dancing together, before the piano takes over the tread. Exquisite violins lead to string ensemble of almost unbearable tenderness; the music gets denser and ever more passionate.
Without a pause, we are into the Finale: a Bachian transition passage from the piano develops into a strutting, vigorous, emphatic theme for Mr. Lee, who dazzles us yet again. Wonderful wit abounds, and the music gets huge and splendid. A brief calming, then rising and intense strings propel a flow of melody. In a last brilliant little touch, the pianist plays à l'espagnole, the violin has a last say, and the finale ends with an ironic nod.