The normally austere Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle seemed downright homey yesterday afternoon when guest violinist Liela Josefowicz and Toledo Symphony musicians presented an informal concert of chamber music. An audience of about 75 sat on stage alongside the musicians. Many were close enough that they not only listened, but looked over the players' shoulders and followed along on the printed page.
Informality was the rule. The casually dressed musicians introduced the selections verbally. They even smiled and made jokes.
If only more classical music concerts were this unpretentious.
The concert was part of Toledo Symphony's newly inaugurated Artists Up Close series, concerts designed to provide additional performance outlets for guest artists who have been contracted to solo with the orchestra.
Josefowicz played a concerto with the Toledo Symphony on Friday and Saturday nights. Here she played in a quintet by Beethoven.
It's a good deal all around.
For symphony musicians, these concerts offer the opportunity to develop a relationship in which they act as equals rather than as backup players to the guest soloist.
For audiences, these concerts offer an opportunity to get to know both guest artists and orchestra members. That's a good thing. In music and people, it's easiest to like what you know.
As for the playing itself, it was generally satisfying, but hardly inspired.
Violinist Merwin Siu and cellist Daemon Coleman gave a resolute performance of Bartok's Hungarian Folk Melodies.
Those two joined Josefowicz and violists Ellen Craig and Valentin Ragusitu in a sturdy, if occasionally untidy, reading of the Beethoven Quintet.
Unfortunately Josefowicz, whom one might have expected to hold the bar high and lead by example, did nothing of the sort. Her playing was pedestrian.