It was the last Sunday of summer, and if the line I was standing in at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Delray Beach is any indication, this season of classical music will be not only enriching but well-attended.
The 21st season of Music at St. Paul’s, which opened Sunday, featured works by Mozart and Brahms as played by instrumentalists associated with Florida International University, including that school’s enemble in residence, the Amernet Quartet. It was a lengthy but nourishing afternoon of chamber music, with fine performances of masterpieces of the genre.
The well-known area clarinetist Paul Green opened the concert with the Amernet foursome in the Clarinet Quintet of Mozart, written at the end of the composer’s life and still as fresh and innovatory as when it was first conceived. This was a very good reading of a great work by a group of seasoned musicians who know how to bring out the depth and the breadth of Mozart.
Green has a nice, big sound that floated out in strong relief against the Amernet (Misha Vitenson and Marcia Littley, violins, violist Michael Klotz and cellist Javier Arias). He sounded particularly nice in the sweet song of the second movement, and in the bubbly finale, which the St. Paul’s audience appeared to especially enjoy. And while the ensemble of all five players was fine overall, this was a performance that also was more aggressive than subtle, and perhaps a bit too edgy for more traditional tastes.
The second Mozart selection, which opened the second half, featured Klotz and violinist Robert Davidovici in the G major Duo for violin and viola, K. 423. Here, too, was an intense, committed performance, with broad gestures and themes sharply outlined.
Tuning was slightly ragged in the first movement, but got better as the playing progressed.
Earlier in the summer the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival featured a performance of the other Mozart violin-viola duo (in B-flat, K. 424) that was classic, elegant and somewhat restrained. This reading of the G major duo, on the other hand, was all about passion, especially in the third movement, and particularly from Klotz.
Overall, Klotz and Davidovici were well-matched in this interpretation, and clearly enjoyed playing together.
Davidovici was the soloist in the Second Violin Sonata (in A, op. 100) of Brahms, which closed the first part of the concert. In the sonata, the Romanian-born Davidovici showed himself to be a player in the older Romantic tradition, with a fat sound and a high-strung emotion trembling beneath the surface of the various melodic lines. He is a persuasive advocate for Brahms, with an interpretive mindset that seems to match what the composer was after, and plenty of technique to make his case.
Pianist Ilya Itin proved to be a fine accompanist, and offered up several moments of sheer loveliness, especially in the second movement.
The concert closed with another Brahms work, the Piano Quartet in C minor (Op. 60). Itin, Davidovici, Klotz and Arias were the players, and as might be expected by this point, this was a very warm, red-blooded rendition of this fine piece.
As Davidovici noted in remarks earlier in the concert, the key a composer chooses is quite important, and for Brahms as well as Beethoven, C minor is a key of drama and brooding strength.
Perhaps the high point here was the third movement, with a beautiful, full-throated cello song for Arias, and a joint narrative arc for the music that smartly charted the emotional highs and lows of the music.
(The next concert in the St. Paul series is set for Oct. 19, when Green will lead the klezmer band he founded, Klezmer East, in a program of music from this Jewish folk tradition.)