It should be no surprise that Sybarite5, the string quintet founded by a Sarasotan, brought their usual mix of fierce energy, tonal beauty and intellectual challenge to the finale of their Forward Festival — Coming Together, the new festival incorporating both local and international talent.
Sybarite5, comprised of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins, Angela Pickett, viola, Laura Metcalf, cello, and Sarasota product Louis Levitt on bass, has developed a repertoire that mixes historical landmark music with the newest output from Led Zeppelin, Radiohead, and Andy Akiho, the chamber music star of today. Akiho's "Revolve" had its world premiere at this event; Radiohead's "No Surprises" was heard in a lovely and touching arrangement for string quintet, created after the ensemble had performed the original with Key Chorale in Sarasota in an event titled "Mozart Meets Radiohead." Joined by the Sarasota-based Chroma Quartet (Christopher Takeda and Jennifer Best Takeda, violins, Michael McClelland, viola, and Abe Feder, cello) the ensemble grew in intensity and impact.
In this combination we heard a glowing performance of Claude Debussy's Sacred and Profane Dances performed brilliantly by harpist Cheryl Losey; Osvoldo Golijov's new-tango "Last Round;" and "Coming Together" by Frederick Rzewski;,a strong musical interpretation of the festival's title, in which the combined strings were joined by Blythe Gaissert, soprano, George Nickson, percussion and Djordje Nesic, piano.
Gaissert's impressively lyric mezzo-soprano was both touching and inspiring in her rendition of Margaret Wise Brown's children's story "Good Night, Moon," newly set to music by Glen Roven specifically for the festival. However, although her singing was not part of the compelling tonal fabric of "Coming Together," her beautiful speaking voice (occasionally joined by those of the ensemble) was riveting as the drama grew and touched our souls. All in all, this was another milestone in Sarasota's growth as an arts destination. CONCERT REVIEW GALA FINALE CONCERT. Forward Festival, presented by Sybarite5. Reviewed May 11 at Holley Hall.