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Ensembles shine at Park City Music Festival

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PARK CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL, through Aug. 6; for concert and ticket information, call (435) 649-5309 or visit www.pcmusicfestival.com.

PARK CITY — The verdant mountainsides of Park City provide a lush backdrop for the Park City International Music Festival.

Professional and student musicians have gathered in this artist's dreamland to teach, study and perform.

Concerts are offered by these fine musicians each Thursday, Friday and Sunday through Aug. 6.

Sunday's program, in the Park City Community Church, brought together Gail Niwa (piano), Russell Harlow (clarinet) and Philippe Djokic (violin), with Terry King (cello), Charles Castleman (violin) and Leslie Harlow (viola).

Djokic, Niwa and Russell Harlow shined with a stellar performance of Bartok's "Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano." Not only did they handle the musical aspects of the piece with panache but also the technical — both Harlow and Djokic had to switch instruments mid-piece to another violin and another clarinet that were tuned differently.

Brahms' "Piano Quartet in C Minor," which concluded Sunday's performance, was also quite good.

Niwa, King, Djokic and Leslie Harlow gave this piece the drama and intensity (sometimes restrained and sometimes with abandon) that it deserves.

They also played very well as an ensemble, with a fine synergistic effect.

On Thursday, in the Richard Thomas Gallery on Main Street, King, Castleman and Leslie Harlow began with Beethoven's "Serenade in D Major for String Trio, Opus 8."

While all three musicians are obviously capable solo performers, as a trio they sounded like three individual players rather than one ensemble. Also, Castleman, on the first violin part, dominated all of the time — with or without the melody.

Castleman had a chance to be alone in the spotlight on the (unaccompanied) "Sonata for Solo Violin" by Bartok. He attacked this piece with great zeal and fury, frequently stopping between movements to remove the broken hair from the bow.

Bartok wrote some extremely difficult techniques in this sonata, all of which Castleman nailed every time.

Kodaly's "String Quartet No. 2" ended the evening. It was a fine performance of the piece, particularly of the last movement.

Kudos should go to the festival's artistic directors, Leslie and Russell Harlow, for their program selections for the festival. Many of these pieces are seldom, if ever, heard by most concertgoers, and all of them deserve more exposure.

E-MAIL: rcline@desnews.com