PALM BEACH CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVAL
LISA LEONARD/ KAREN FULLER DIXON/ DINA KOSTIC/ 
MEI MEI LUO/RENE REDER/ SUSAN MOYER/ 
MICHAEL ELLERT/ MICHAEL FORTE
VIVALDI/ SURINACH/ ROUSSEL/ BRAHMS (7-8-07)

By Lawrence Budmen 

The Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival fills an important void during summerís sparse classical music offerings. This series is intelligently programmed with an intriguing mix of masterpieces from the chamber music repertoire and obscure works that merit attention. Performances are well rehearsed and strongly projected. In pianist Lisa Leonard, the festival has an authentic star Ė a musician who combines awesome technique with passionate musicality. At the 2007 festivalís initial matinee outing on July 8 at the Crest Theater at Old School Square in Delray Beach, Leonard offered a towering interpretation of Brahmsí Piano Quintet in F minor, Op.34a. But the concertís first half was also compelling. 

An incisive performance of Vivaldiís Concerto in D Major for Flute, Violin, and Bassoon launched the afternoon. Flutist Karen Fuller Dixonís finely spun agility caressed the ear. Violinist Mei Mei Luoís stylish, frequently brilliant playing offered finesse as well as flair. Bassoonist Michael Ellert provided strong continuo backing.

The original version of Ritmo Jondo by the Spanish born composer Carlos Surinach (1915-1997) was a charming percussion tour de force. Based on rhythms of Flamenco dance, Surinachís propulsive energy was riveting. Yet the central Lento movement (symbolizing a Good Friday procession) had the austere dignity and sparse harmony of Renaissance music. Percussionists Michael Launius and Mark Schubert reveled in the scoreís bouncy drive while trumpeter Brian Stanley and clarinetist Michael Forte played the composerís angular rhythms with precision and high style. A trio of hand clappers added to the outer movementsí festive spirit. 

The spiky Gallic spirit of Albert Rousselís Trio for Flute, Viola, and Cello, Op.40 enlivened a winning confection. This late score found the vastly gifted Roussel at the height of his power. His astringent harmonies and introspective lyricism alternated in fascinating contrast. The concluding Allegro non troppo was particularly airy and insouciant. Dixonís flute acrobatics were dazzling. Violist Rene Reder captured the musicís light as a feather ťlan. Cellist Susan Moyer was alert to the musicís sudden moments of pathos amid the bustling ensemble writing.

Brahmsí quintet received a performance of masterful proportions. This glorious music literally soared with eloquent exultation. Leonard is a musician of extraordinary talent and intellect. Her bracing, fiery pianism uncovered new layers in this familiar work. For all her incendiary propulsion, Leonard found the lyricism and sensitive yearning of the scoreís subtext. Her subtle interplay with the deep toned cello of Susan Moyer brought musical eloquence par excellence. With violinists Dina Kostic and Mei Mei Luo and violist Reder playing with taught power, the scoreís surging romanticism was richly served. Leonardís magisterial keyboard performance illuminated Brahmsí sweeping vistas. Here was great chamber music making indeed Ė a stellar opener! 



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