It is exciting to hear the work of a promising young musician and interesting to revisit early works of those venerable names whose oeuvre is complete, established and familiar. Week two of Summerfest chamber music festival offered both in the Saturday concert in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s White Recital Hall.
The program led off with “Lawless Airs,” by Dan Visconti, an American born in 1982. Its inherent American-ness brought up obvious comparisons, but there was a concerted quality of space and control. Violinist Stephanie Cathcart and harpist Tabitha Reist Steiner drew from the wide intervals and dry pizzicato a solitary quality, as though played out on a lonesome, arid plain. With vibrato the plucked tones sounded like droplets, the brittle chords and treacherous harmonics giving way to a beautiful, if sorrowful, melody, before the mirage dissipated completely.
The performance also included an early work from Maurice Ravel in the exceptional Sonatine. Carlos Salzedo arranged the piano solo into a trio for flute (Michael Gordon), viola (Jessica Nance) and harp (Reist Steiner). The ensemble was cohesive and the timbres lightly balanced, the different colors coming to the forefront with each emerging change of character in a virtuosic and engaging performance.
Lesser known was Alexander Zemlinsky, whose Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano was performed by Jane Carl, Alexander East and Melissa Rose, respectively. This piece (the entire second portion of the program) was darker, longer, more grandiose than what had come before, almost Beethovenian in its consistency of theme.
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They plumbed the richness of the timbres for the work’s debonair flair, and Carl wailed on the clarinet, sometimes drowned out by the other voices but generally having her say. If the melodies repeated often, the musicians at least strove to apply passion and mystery to the repetitive line, the final measures exciting and deliberately emphasized.
Slotted between the Visconti and Ravel was Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Musique de table, Part II,” a contrast to the rest of the program and venerable, indeed. Written at the height of Telemann’s career, this is a prime example of Baroque practices, the instrumentation for each performance determined by availability and range.
Here they chose flute (Gordon), violin (Cathcart) and bassoon (Joshua Hood), with continuo on cello (East) and harpsichord (Charles Metz), demonstrating the work’s egalitarian nature, voices trading primary and secondary material, technically impressive and pleasant to hear in another enjoyable installment of Summerfest.