Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center 2022-23 Review: WinterFest – Joélle Harvey

Joélle Harvey Delights in Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s WinterFest Finale

By Logan Martell
                 Photo: Tristan Cook  

On Feb. 10, 2023, Chamber Music Society (CMS) of Lincoln Center presented the final program in this year’s WinterFest. Titled “The Magic of Schubert,” the festival celebrates the composer’s famous and lesser-known works, which opened on Jan. 22 with their “Into Eternity” program.

This latest program, “From Song,” saw the CMS ensemble joined by soprano Joélle Harvey, who recently performed with the NY Philharmonic at the opening of the new David Geffen Hall. The ensemble comprised violinists Stella Chen and Cho-Liang Lin, violist Paul Neubauer, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, double bassist Edgar Meyer, clarinetist Sebastian Manz, bassoonist Peter Kollay, and horn player Kevin Rivard.

Joélle Harvey Sings Schubert Lieder

Opening the program was the lied “Gretchen am Spinnrade,” with Harvey accompanied by Ken Noda. This selection made for a quick and seizing start as the two laid out the phrases of circling passion. Harvey’s rendition displayed remarkable infatuation, with her tones fluidly leaping into greater heights of excitement and longing towards the glorious, climactic fermata on “his kiss.” Harvey’s ability to de-escalate and re-thread that vocal fervor back into itself to make for smooth repetitions of poignant phrases finely contrasted the power of these moments. This piece had no shortage of romantic sentiment, as fervor both excited and wearied her towards its final trailing repeat.

The second of the pieces she sang was “Auf dem Strom.” Whereas the prior lied was penned in Schubert’s 17th year, this one premiered within the very year of his death and treated a similar subject of longing with a significantly more mature approach. Following the affectionate introduction, with Rivard’s muted horn laying down measures of echoing nostalgia, Harvey’s delivery of the Rellstab’s text deftly joined the sweetness of the lover’s memories with the bitterness of their present loss and difficult journey.

The last of the lieder was “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen,” a fitting choice given its place as one of Schubert’s last works. Manz’s bracing and evocative clarinet soon answered the dire chordal approach, delightful to hear and watch as he warmly articulated these phrases as if in dialogue with the previous works.

When Harvey joined their texture in the initial verse, a captivating exchange often occurred as the clarinet alternated between bolstering her lines, echoing them, or embellishing their conclusions. The joyful verve of the latter sections seemed to dance its way out of the more lyrical power of Varnhagen’s text as the clarinet set up the return of Muller.

The exuberant repetitions of the simple verse “spring is coming/ spring, my joy/ I shall now make ready to journey” was a simple yet powerful rebuke of all the hardship heard in earlier parts and selections. The theme of transcending woes is by no means rare, but this piece reaches it through an almost infectious energy, which Harvey delivered with impeccable charm and to great applause.

Instrumental Selections

The instrumental selections for the evening were “Five German Dances for String Quartet, D.90,” which came between the first two lieder at the beginning of the program, and “Octet in F Major for Winds and Strings, D. 803, Op. 166,” which comprised the second half program. Whereas the first work made for a spirited interlude, the octet was an extended showcase of Schubert, captivatingly executed by the ensemble over the next hour.

The program was a stunning tribute to the composer and could hardly have been a better fit to close out CMS’s WinterFest. The company has recently unveiled its upcoming season of performances, centered on the theme of legacy, which will no doubt celebrate the past while looking towards the future.


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