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On 20 June the scene shifted to the warm ambience of the Sarasota Opera House, a nineteenth century style palace. Ann Hobson Pilot, principal harpist of the Boston Symphony, played exquisitely in Ravel's dreamy Introduction and Allegro. Her gleaming tone, fluent virtuosity, and musicality were the essence of instrumental mastery. A group of students joined Ms Pilot for a gorgeous reading of Debussy's Sonata No 2 for Flute, Viola, and Harp -- impressionistic music played with flair and elegance by a great artist. Pianist Susan Starr, a Tchaikovsky Competition winner, joined Preucil, Vernon, and Leonard for a truly magnificent performance of the Piano Quartet in C minor by Brahms. In the eloquent, lyrical Andante, Preucil's beautiful tone blended with Leonard's rich, glowing cello sound in a manner that was truly sublime. Ms Starr's sensitive, deeply probing pianism made the listener hang on every note of this Brahms masterpiece. Preucil, Vernon, and Leonard brought lively, incisive playing to Bach's Sonata No 6 BWV 530. The rhythms were springy, the ensemble playing brilliant. To conclude the evening, a student contingent brought lively, sparkling playing to the delightful Grand Nonette by Louis Spohr.

On 21 June French horn virtuoso supreme David Jolley revealed a large, rounded tone and remarkable flexibility in Mozart's Horn Concerto No 4 K495, vigorously conducted by festival director Paul Wolfe. Clarinetist Charles Neidich (a faculty member of the Julliard School) gave an insouciant performance of the Clarinet Concerto by Jean Francaix, a 1968 score that abounds in light, bubbling melodies and Gallic charm. Neidich gave a sparkling performance of this irresistible music, tossing off the rapid fire acrobatics of the Allegrissimo with ease and showmanship. The student dominated festival orchestra matched Neidich in brilliance and Wolfe conducted with panache. Violinist James Buswell concluded the festival with an exhilarating performance of the Scottish Fantasy by Max Bruch. Buswell, a patrician artist, brought a bright, shining tone and virtuosity aplenty to Bruch's soaring phrases. His darkly burnished sound in the Andante sostenuto was all warmth and violinistic molten lava. He was given rousing support by conductor Wolfe and the orchestra. Throughout the three days of concerts, the performances and ambience radiated a truly festive sense of joy.

Copyright © 26 June 2003 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA



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