Sarasota Music Festival
Sometimes we have to die a little before we can really live. That seems to be what’s happened to the Sarasota Music Festival. It almost went under last year but, thanks to the resuscitation of a grant from the Jay and Becky Kaiserman Foundation and some brilliant reworking on the part of Artistic Director Robert Levin, it’s back.
Friday’s concert of chamber music at the Sarasota Opera House was positively permeated with Levin’s fresh but challenging endeavor to infiltrate more students into the mix, starting with an enthusiastic, if occasionally rushed, performance of the opening movement of Mendelssohn’s passionate F minor string quartet, featuring the newly appointed concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony, violinist David Coucheron; Curtis violinist Maia Cabeza; Cleveland Institute violist Sergein Yap; and Peabody cellist Paula Cuesta Redondo.
Mozart’s familiar oboe quartet in F major was given a stylish and musical reading by veterans Allan Vogel (oboe), James Buswell (violin), James Dunham (viola) and newcomer Abe Feder — principal cellist of the Sarasota Orchestra.
Schumann’s E flat piano quartet, Opus 47, one of the most fervently song-filled works of the repertory, had a less fortunate execution, despite the experienced efforts of cellist Clive Greensmith and Colburn violist Jeremy Berry. This lushly romantic work also featured veteran icons John Perry, pianist, and violinist Joseph Silverstein, whose performances offered more inspiration than accuracy.
The music took an upward turn following intermission, when Levin, Alexander Kerr and Greensmith presented Ravel’s A minor piano trio in a performance so stylish and exquisitely played, it should be recorded as a testament to what this festival is all about.
Four of the seven sections of Milhaud’s charming “La Cheminee du Roi Rene” were presented with spirit and finesse by flutist Joanna Martin and clarinetist Michael Bartnik, both from the University of Texas; Eastman oboist John Upton; Northwestern bassoonist Gareth Thomas; and Juilliard hornist Craig Hubbard.
The concert’s grand finale, the gypsy-inspired final movement of Brahms’ G minor piano quartet, had a rather odd performance — perfect in notes but somehow wrong-headed in style — by Juilliard violinist Jin Suk Yu; Colburn violist Born Lau; Eastman cellist Jonathan Lo; and freelance pianist Marina Radiushina.
— June LeBell
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