By Lawrence Budmen

The Brno Chamber Soloists took the stage of UM Gusman Hall Sunday night for a Festival Miami concert of music from three centuries. The twelve member string ensemble from the Czech Republic played with tonal warmth and incisive precision under its excellent concertmaster and artistic director Jiri Besperat. 

The program opened with a lively performance of the Sinfonia No.3 by Jan Zach, a Czech composer of the Baroque era. Like the scores of such Mozart contemporaries as Stamitz and Dittersdorf, Zach’s music is well crafted but undistinguished. The suite from En Habit d’Arlequin by Roger Boutry was an enchanting 20th century Baroque pastiche in the manner of Beecham’s Handelian ballet scores. A violin solo in the Serenade movement showcased Besperat’s finely spun tonal hues while the Presto was spiked with contemporary dissonance.

Michiko Otaki was soloist in an underpowered traversal of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.13. This performance was definitely powdered wigged Mozart. Too often Ms. Otaki’s sense of rhythmic momentum was stodgy. Her phrasing and shaping of the melodic line was flaccid. Despite note perfect execution she missed the wit and charm of the final Rondo which can sparkle in the hands of a Richard Goode or Peter Serkin. 

The ensemble’s principal cellist Jan Skrdlik gave an exhilarating account of the Concerto in C Minor by Johann Christian Bach. Skrdlik commands a huge tonal palette and bold, fearless virtuosity in the manner of Lynn Harrell. He imbued the grave, noble slow movement with a rich, darkly burnished sound of molten lava and displayed dare devil agility in the concluding Allegro. 

An invigorating performance of Grieg’s Holberg Suite was delightful musical icing on the cake. Superb ensemble playing marked the opening Praeludium. The musicians brought the perfect combination of urbane classicism and rustic vigor to the Gavotte. Besperat gave a brilliant emulation of a country fiddler in the Rigaudon finale. In the Presto from Mozart’s Divertimento in F Major (offered as an encore) the string playing was smooth as silk. Indeed the verve and élan of the Brno musicians’ performance garnered a standing ovation.

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