Roars from the crowd greeted the final notes of Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 2 in G minor, Op. 26. Indeed it had been a colorful performance, but it was exactly what we have come to expect from the Sarasota Music Festival. All three performers — pianist Robert Levin, violinist James Buswell, and cellist Ron Leonard — have been on the faculty for over three decades. Therefore it is no surprise that they think with the same artistic mind and blend as one with the music. This perfection of ensemble doesn’t come easy, but here has been polished by time and a familiarity which made the folk-inspired melodic riches of Dvorak all the more enjoyable.
The all-faculty wind quintet in Irving Fine’s Partita was also well-matched and attuned, in part due to their years together on the Sarasota stage. The Partita is a wind quintet staple, but still bristles with fresh energy amply supplied by Leone Buyse, flute; Alan Vogel, oboe; Charles Neiditch, clarinet; Frank Morelli, bassoon; and William Purvis, horn. In fact, it’s relentlessly bubbly and good-natured, seeming to relax only when the music at last subsides to a delicate fading note held last by clarinet.
The remaining ensembles on the program had no such track record performing together. Student participants, largely having met each other just two weeks ago, brought substantial musicality to the stage to carry the day.
Faculty and students performing together in Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95 underscored the fact that these are the professionals of tomorrow, if not today. Cellist Karissa Zadinsky and violinist Katya Poplyansky with faculty violinist Charles Wetherbee and violist Barbara Westphal brought agitation, suspense and finally a satisfying zip to the finale.
Three contrasting works on the program were performed by all student ensembles, not that the performance level was noticeably different from the others. Brian Fenwick, piano; Dylan Kennedy, violin; Jessica Pasternak, viola; and Ari Evan, cello, didn’t shy away from the challenges of the Allegro non troppo from Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C minor, Op. 60. Their dynamics and phrasing were exceptionally well crafted.
The sound of the Pantoum movement of Ravel’s Piano Trio in A minor was a world apart. The ensemble of Connie Kim-Sheng, piano; Sarah Hamilton Atwood, violin; and Ben Manis, cello, portrayed a brittle tension alternating with a wash of sensuality. It was a memorable combination and performance.
Yet, the performance that made mouths water and souls drift into dreams was given by Anton Smirnov, piano; Gigi Brady, oboe; Andrew Sandwick, clarinet; Pearson Altizer, bassoon; and Katelyn Benedict, horn. The Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, K. 452 is one of Mozart’s most lovely chamber works with the Larghetto being the melodic centerpiece. Each of these musicians brought beauty of tone and expression to make this the top pick of the evening for this listener. Bravi!