PARK CITY AND SALT LAKE CITY AUTUMN CLASSICS MUSIC FESTIVAL, St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church, Park City, Thursday; runs through Monday (801-943-0169 or 435-649-5309)
The first half of Thursday's Autumn Classics Music Festival concert was a rather eclectic affair. Deviating slightly from the printed program (two artists weren't able to come to Utah because of health reasons), the opening half was solidly romantic, with a couple of exceptions.
Shostakovich was one of those. However, this was a different Shostakovich than the moody, brooding composer one expects to hear. The Duets for Two Violins and Piano by the Russian composer that were performed (delightfully so by violinists Philippe and Marc Djokic and pianist John Jensen) are light, entertaining pieces that are filled with witty phrases and catchy little tunes.
The concert opened with Miniatures for Two Violins and Viola, op. 75a by Dvorak. The four pieces in this set are almost folk-like in character, simple and unassuming. Yet they contain so much that they are rather sophisticated in a manner that isn't immediately obvious. They are wonderfully entertaining, much like the Shostakovich. For this performance, Philippe and Marc Djokic, who are father and son, were joined by violist Leslie Harlow. They played the pieces with a lightness that was engaging and brought out the music's charm easily with lyrical phrasings.
Schumann's Adagio and Allegro for Cello and Piano, which also was on the first half, is a wonderfully expressive work filled with romantic passion. Cellist Jeffrey Solow, a longtime guest artist at the Park City festival, accompanied by Jensen, gave a luminous reading, playing with feeling and emotion. He played the Adagio with long, seamless phrases that seemed to float in the air, while the Allegro was dramatic and filled with ardor.
The only other exception to this romantic outpouring in the opening half was Berg's Four Pieces for Clarinet and Piano.
Written in 1913, it is Berg's first independent work after his student years with Schoenberg. It shows the young man's great promise as a composer. Berg would go on to write such 20th century masterpieces as the opera "Wozzeck," the "Lyric Suite" for string quartet and the Violin Concerto.
The Four Pieces are quite demanding, despite their Webern-like brevity. In them, Berg encapsulates human emotions succinctly and with profound insight. Clarinetist Russell Harlow, with Jensen at the piano, gave a wonderfully expressive reading of this compelling atonal music that was dynamic and forceful.
The concert ended with another Dvorak, this time one of his finest chamber works, the Piano Quartet in E flat major, op. 47.
As played by Marc Djokic, Leslie Harlow, Solow and Jensen, the work received its due. They gave a stunningly impassioned reading that captured the sweeping phrases and bold lines of the outer movements while bringing dramatic darkness of tone to the second movement Lento and fluidity and nimble playing to the third movement. The four players brought a vibrancy to their performance that was refreshing and wonderfully mesmerizing.