PARK CITY INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL, Thursday-Saturday, July 20-23. The festival continues through Aug. 6. Concerts take place Thursdays in Richard Thomas Gallery (751 Main St.), Fridays in St. Mary's Catholic Church (Highway 224 at the base of The Canyons Resort) and Sundays in Park City Community Church (Highway 224 at Silver Spring Drive). For concert and ticket information, call the festival office at 435-649-5309.
Characteristic for the Park City Festival is that directors Russell and Leslie Harlow each year bring together some of the finest musicians from around the country to perform chamber music of the highest caliber. And the music these artists perform represents a diverse collection of works and of composers. The emphasis at the festival is on giving audience members something familiar, while at the same time expanding their musical horizons with pieces that aren't as widely known.
This past weekend's concerts had several first-rate performances of some exceptional works.
A piece you wouldn't expect to find at a chamber music concert is Debussy's "Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun." However, it was played at Sunday's concert in a fantastic arrangement by clarinetist Michael Webster for flute, clarinet and piano. And it was given a wonderful performance by flutist Laurel Ann Maurer, clarinetist Russell Harlow and pianist Gail Niwa.
There is hardly anyone who plays Debussy better than Maurer. She has an affinity for his music, and it shows in the way she plays it. And her collaboration with Harlow and Niwa turned this performance into a richly rewarding experience.
Debussy's sole string quartet was also played this past weekend by violinists Arturo Delmoni and Philippe Djokic, violist Leslie Harlow and cellist Scott Ballantyne. These four musicians gave a fine interpretation of this lovely work. They played with feeling and conviction, and they brought out the drama and passion and also the tender lyricism of this delightful quartet.
Leslie Harlow and Niwa also teamed up over the weekend for a stunning interpretation of Shostakovich's final work, his heart-wrenching Sonata for Viola and Piano. Their performance was subliminal as it delved into the very soul of this highly personal final statement from the great Soviet-era composer.
The Sonata is full of poignant and tender moments, but it also screams out with pain and anguish, and as such, it's one of his most powerful works.
Niwa and Russell Harlow joined cellist Terry King for a memorable performance of Brahms' Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, op. 114. This trio is filled with the passion and emotional intensity you expect from Brahms, and the three musicians were superb in their interpretation.
One of Boccherini's numerous string quintets opened the concert Thursday evening, performed by Djokic, Delmoni, Leslie Harlow, King and Ballantyne. There were a few rough spots throughout the piece, but nevertheless the five players gave a solid and sincere performance.
In a lighter vein, Maurer, Delmoni, Ballantyne and Leslie Harlow collaborated together in a delightful interpretation of Mozart's charming Flute Quartet in D major, K. 285. The piece is light, carefree, vivacious and melodic. There is nothing serious here. The flute dominates throughout, with the other three instruments merely accompanying, so Maurer once again had a chance to dazzle the audience with her flawless technique and impeccable playing.