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Park City, Salt Lake City Music Festival is enchanting

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PARK CITY AND SALT LAKE CITY MUSIC FESTIVAL, Park City Community Church, additional performances through July 23 (943-0169).

The Park City and Salt Lake City Music Festival ended its first week Sunday with an enchanting concert that included two rarely heard yet tantalizing works — Shostakovich's Sonata for Viola and Piano, op. 147, and Ingolf Dahl's Concerto a Tre for Clarinet, Violin and Cello.

The Shostakovich sonata opened the concert. The last work that the composer completed before his death in 1975, the music is fueled by unforgiving intense expressions and searing emotions. A demanding piece that craves the utmost from the performers in expression and technique, it is not a work one would expect to find at the start of a concert. Yet violist Leslie Harlow and pianist Doris Stevenson gave a compelling reading that captured the sonata's uncompromising emotional gamut.

While the first two movements of the sonata are potent — the Moderato for its impassioned statements, the Allegretto for its moments of piercing sarcasm — it is the concluding Adagio in which Shostakovich bares his soul.

The third movement is the focal point of the sonata and brings it to its inevitable conclusion. Using the familiar rhythmic motive from the Funeral March of Chopin's B flat Minor Piano Sonata as the thematic basis for this movement, Shostakovich poignantly resigns himself to the inescapability of death — perhaps somewhat reluctantly, but certainly with a clear conscience. It is without question one of the composer's most gripping pronouncements.

Harlow's playing of the sonata was defined by its great sensitivity to the subtlety of the music. It was a carefully crafted interpretation that underscored the emotional intensity and anguish of the music with eloquent clarity. And Stevenson showed herself to be Harlow's equal with her perceptive playing. Their performance was insightful and, above all, poetic.

The Dahl Concerto, which ended Sunday's concert is, on the other hand, deceptive. Written in a lucid and articulate neo-classical idiom, it sounds deceivingly simple. Yet at some 20 minutes, it is a taut and intricately woven piece of music. Dahl displays his adroit compositional technique here, specifically in the blending of light textures and open harmonies with complex contrapuntal writing and tricky rhythms.

Russell Harlow, clarinet; Dara Morales, violin; and Jesus Morales, cello, gave a vibrant and dynamic reading that captured the nimbleness of the outer sections and the reflective introspection of the middle section of this one-movement concerto. Their fluid ensemble-playing allowed them to explore the work's subtle rhythmic inflections and the finely woven interplay of the three instruments.

Beethoven's captivating Piano Trio in E flat, op. 1, no. 1, rounded out Sunday's concert. Husband-and-wife duo Dara and Jesus Morales joined forces with Stevenson in a delightfully lighthearted reading of this work. Their playing was well-balanced and captured the music's classical charm with dexterity and flair.

E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com