Summerfest’s 22nd season started out cool and collected, a respite from the metro area’s recent heat wave and the frenzy of this week’s All-Star Game. This year’s theme, “An Invitation to the Dance,” began with a program that used dance forms as a jumping-off point.
Sunday’s performance was at Country Club Christian Church, a new location for the festival, which presents a variety of new, traditional and little-performed chamber music each weekend in July. (Saturday evening performances are still at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s White Hall.)
“Dance of the White Lotus Under the Silver Moon” is a flute and harp duet by American composer Stella Sung. Inspired by Chinese and Japanese decorative screens, the piece explored non-Western scales for a rippling atmosphere. Despite flutist Alice Dade Del Campo’s low, beautiful tone over the harp’s glistening arpeggios, the piece seemed interminable.
Felix Mendelssohn wrote his Könzertstücke No. 2, Op. 114 in D-minor as party music, and the performance was reminiscent of parties I’ve attended. The Presto was welcoming and jovial, while the forced, staid second movement felt like a conversation between acquaintances with little in common. But this was followed by a lighthearted romp of a third movement, with whirling figures in the clarinet and bassoon and friendly asides from the piano.
The church’s stage presented some logistical issues for the musicians, since the piano took over most of the stage and the wind players were seated a tier below. Generally, this wasn’t a problem, though there were balance issues between the piano and the low register of the bassoon during forte sections.
Maurice Ravel’s “Introduction and Allegro” was written as a showpiece for the harp, and this performance showed off the considerable talents of Tabitha Reist Steiner. Ravel wrote it in a hurry, finishing it in a week, but the piece didn’t feel pressed for time. Rather, it seemed to luxuriate in itself, with iridescent coloring and delicate melodies made all the more lush by brief insistent moments of forward motion.
The concert ended with Antonin Dvoøák’s Piano Quintet in A-major, op. 81. It was the most dance-like of the works, using sturdy folk-like tunes to create a study in contrasts: The Ukrainian dumka leapt from lamenting strains in the cello to sunny lines in the violins and the Bohemian furiant meshed with a hymn-tune. The performance was subdued, though, until the rollicking final moments.