PALM BEACH CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
KAREN FULLER DIXON/SUSAN MOYER/LISA LEONARD/
DINA KOSTIC/RENE REDER/MICHAEL ELLERT/MICHAEL FORTE/
JEFF LEENHOUTS/JASON LINDSAY
By Lawrence Budmen
Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959) was the most significant Czech composer of the 20th century. His prolific catalogue of some 400 works in multiple genres once loomed large on the world’s concert scene. Enthusiastically championed by Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, and Rafael Kubelik, Martinu’s music has been less frequently heard in recent years, due mainly to the lack of a major contemporary podium advocate. Therefore the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival’s revival of Martinu’s Trio for flute, cello, and piano (1944) on July 15 at the Crest Theater in Delray Beach was doubly welcome.
Martinu lived in Paris and New York for much of his life. Czech, French and even American influences are ingenuously woven into the musical fabric of Martinu’s ecstatic trio. The opening Poco Allegretto revels in sparkling rhythms a la Francaise. A luminous Adagio conveys Czech folk modes. The concluding Allegretto Scherzando suggests New England grandeur in the manner of George Whitefield Chadwick. A remarkable flute solo of exquisite ornaments connects the second movement and finale. This score is an unjustly neglected gem by a 20th century genius.
The piece was given a sensuous performance by flutist Karen Fuller Dixon (pure of tone, bold in declamatory utterance), cellist Susan Moyer (darkly sonorous and eloquent), and especially pianist Lisa Leonard (sensitive to the music’s mercurial mood swings, producing tonal exclamations of pearly beauty).
The program opened with Phantasie for two violins, viola and cello, a stiffly formal work by the late 19th century British composer William Yeates Hurlstone. A wind ensemble version of Rossini’s Quartet No.4 in F Major proved a total delight. (This score is more familiar in the teenage composer’s original string version.) All the idiomatic eccentricities of the mature Rossini glow with enticing verve in this irresistible score. Dixon, clarinetist Michael Forte, bassoonist Michael Ellert, and French horn soloist Jeff Leenhouts did full justice to this sparkling work.
The concert concluded with the Septet of Swedish composer Franz Berwald. A melodically inspired Poco Adagio and Scherzo dominate the piece’s central section. Berwald’s lovely, graceful wind writing was given a winning traversal by the entire ensemble (joined by double bassist Jason Lindsay). Programs of these rarely heard bon-bons make the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival indispensable to South Florida’s concert life.