The Summerfest chamber music series started its 26th season with a concert of challenging yet listenable works. The performance Saturday in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s White Recital Hall had a refreshing, lighthearted quality and represented a taste of the series’ diverse range of repertoire.
Starting with Georg Friedrich Handel’s Trio Sonata in C minor, HWV 386a, they loosed a measured basso continuo against the spooling long line of the melody, played on oboe by Melissa Peña, her luxuriant tone dominant but balanced conversationally by violinist Anthony DeMarco. Charles Metz (harpsichord) and Alexander East (cello) gave the final movement a liveliness, supporting the allusions to high drama (Handel having repurposed operatic themes) of the melodic material.
Pianist Daniel Velicer joined DeMarco and East for selections from David Baker’s “Roots II.” Baker, inspired by the television series “Roots,” used musical material from the African-American tradition that formed the foundations for rock, ragtime, jazz and gospel.
Velicer established the base rhythmic motif for “I: Incantation,” setting up a sensitive entrance for the opening melody. As the volume and busyness of the texture increased the cello voice was lost briefly under the frenetically winding line.
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In “IV: Boogie Woogie,” the piano’s rhythmic growth was cleverly modified into the melodic voice, beautifully turned out by Velicer and augmented by a succinct and nimble dual line in violin and cello, in contrast to the more languid opening theme. DeMarco offered a victorious theme in a throaty lower register, answered by East, in the final movement, “V: Jubilee,” a declamatory piano line busy under the more piecework string writing.
In 1796, Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Quintet in E flat Major served as a showpiece for the young, emotive pianist/composer, eager to make an impression on the Viennese. The piano part dominated the ensemble of oboe (Peña), clarinet (Jane Carl), bassoon (Joshua Hood) and horn (David Sullivan), launched by a stately fanfare and opening statement, with a forceful tutti response and an excellent sequence of motivic exchanges.
Throughout the work, but especially evident in the Andante cantabile, the players’ sympathetic performance brought special attention to the individual moments, each voice given a prominent feature, important no matter how brief.
At the outset of the final movement, each member of the group smiled as Velicer introduced the lilting pace of the primary melody. With nicely shaped short phrases, the cheery and impressive performance caused smiles and appreciation in the audience as well.