In performance: Kreeger Museum Chamber Festival
Kreeger festival offers seasonal pleasures
by Charles T. Downey
The June Chamber Festival at the Kreeger Museum is an annual sign of the imminent arrival of summer. For the second concert, on Tuesday night, Miles Hoffman and the American Chamber Players gave urbane performances of three relatively rare works for somewhat unusual combinations of instruments.
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Flutist Sara Stern shone the brightest of the five musicians heard in this program, playing with a limpid, refined tone and consistently precise attack and intonation. A good thing, too, as the music on the first half featured the flute as the first among equals, beginning with Beethoven's early Serenade in D, Op. 25, for flute, violin and viola. This sunny work is not quite a suite, although it has dance movements, and not really a sonata, although it recalls some of the forms associated with that genre. The crisp, detached style of playing suited the "Entrata" first movement, which had a pleasing spring in its step. The final movement was a Haydnesque romp, with the last statement of the theme taken ingeniously at a much slower tempo, although Beethoven did not mark the score with any tempo change.
Film composer Madeleine Dring's Trio for Flute, Violin and Piano, from 1968, touched on all the expected influences, from the Shostakovich-like grotesquerie of the first movement to the lush Poulenc-like harmony of the second movement. Pianist Anna Stoytcheva was the star of of Brahms's Second Piano Quartet, providing much of the surging outburst and intensely inward pining of the work. A slight tendency of the ensemble to rush, impelled often by Hoffman on the viola, set the third and fourth movements just so slightly on the edge of control. Like the long-awaited fastball of pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who made his debut with the Washington Nationals the same evening, the velocity was exhilarating.
The final performance of the American Chamber Players' June Festival at the Kreeger Museum will take place on Friday at 7:30 with music by Schubert, Philippe Gaubert, and others.
-- Charles T. Downey
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