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Music fest offers rich experience

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PARK CITY AND SALT LAKE CITY SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL, Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah, Friday

There were a few determined individuals Friday who ignored the Harry Potter craze. Instead of waiting in line until midnight for the last installment of the popular series, they came to Libby Gardner Concert Hall for the Park City and Salt Lake City Summer Music Festival.

The crowd there was small, to be sure, but those who came were rewarded with a wonderfully rich musical experience.

Utah Symphony associate principal clarinetist/festival co-director Russell Harlow and pianist Doris Stevenson opened the concert with Gerald Finzi's "Five Bagatelles," op. 23, for clarinet and piano.

Although he's an underrated composer today, Finzi's music nevertheless has gradually been enjoying a revival in the 50 years since his untimely death at the age of 55.

Finzi wrote in a melodic, unassuming style that adheres to the English tradition of William Walton and Ralph Vaughan Williams. He doesn't imitate them but extracts the best from their music and adds his own distinctive voice.

The "Five Bagatelles" are delightful vignettes. Each is fairly short in length, yet Finzi manages to create some charmingly evocative imagery.

Harlow and Stevenson gave an appealing account, playing with a naturalness that captured the lyricism and simple lines of the music wonderfully.

Mozart's Quartet for Clarinet and Strings in F major, K. 496, followed. Harlow was here joined by violinist Rebekah Johnson, violist Leslie Harlow and cellist Scott Ballantyne. They gave a radiant reading of this work that brought out its lyricism compellingly.

The quartet, which is an arrangement (not by Mozart) of his Piano Trio in F major, needs a clarinetist with a fine sense of lyrical playing and musicianship, and Russell Harlow certainly has the requisite skills and talents. With some exceptional colleagues, this performance was expressive and eloquent.

The final work Friday was Mendelssohn's Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, op. 66. Johnson, Ballantyne and Stevenson played it so that everything was in balance — romantic fervor and intense emotional outbursts were tempered with some exquisitely crafted lyrical playing. They gave a convincing and dynamic account that was emotionally charged, wonderfully expressive and forcefully dramatic.

E-MAIL: ereichel@desnews.com