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 worldís concert scene. Enthusiastically championed by Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, and Rafael Kubelik, Martinuís 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 Festivalís revival of Martinuís 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 Martinuís 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 musicís 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 Rossiniís Quartet No.4 in F Major proved a total delight. (This score is more familiar in the teenage composerís 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 pieceís central section. Berwaldís 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 Floridaís concert life.

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