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The Festival's Friday and Saturday evening concerts take place in the newly renovated Sarasota Opera House, a comfortable art deco era movie palace with warmly reverberant acoustics. On 13 June 2008 Beethoven's Piano Trio No 3 in C minor opened the program with an appropriate combination of charm and gravitas. Pianist Susan Starr's dexterity and intelligent musicality brought dynamic life to every bar. Unfortunately violinist Joseph Silverstein's technique seemed frayed and unreliable. Nevertheless he played with passion. Substituting for cellist Desmond Hoebig who was sidelined with an injury, Clive Greensmith (from the Tokyo String Quartet) exhibited distinctive tone and superb instrumental control.

Silverstein seemed reinvigorated for the original chamber version of Wagner's Siegfried Idyll. Conducting from his concertmaster's seat, Silverstein brought delicate lyricism and spacious pacing to a performance rich in beauty and fervent romanticism. His soaring, honeyed tone carried a student-faculty ensemble. Norway's Froydis Ree Wekre (a former principal in the Oslo Philharmonic) was exceptional in Wagner's extended horn solos. The chamber version allows one to hear much of the inner voices and instrumental textures that are obscured in large scale orchestral versions. With such faculty luminaries as Wincenc, Cobb, oboist Allan Vogel, clarinetist Charles Neidich and bassoonist Frank Morelli contributing gorgeous solo turns, the student members of the ensemble held their own. Cellist Julia Yang and violist Alexander Petersen were particularly impressive, producing rotund, fully burnished tone. Violinist Elizabeth Fayette, clarinetist Benjamin Davis and French horn player Brigette Bencoe made stellar contributions to a performance that soared in ecstatic rapture.

Dvorák's early Piano Quartet No 1 in D, Op 23 is an unjustly neglected gem. Abounding in the composer's typically rich melodies, Czech dances and bursts of romantic fervor, this score deserves repeated hearings. Pianist John Perry (a faculty member at the University of Southern California's Thornton School of Music) exhibited a light, winning touch, disarming flair and real musicality in the prominent keyboard writing. The superb chamber playing of violinist Federico Agostini (former concertmaster of I Musici), Dunham and Greensmith would be hard to equal. Here was a great ensemble performance by musicians who were clearly enthralled with a newly found treasure.

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Copyright © 19 June 2008 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA


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