Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Review: Chamber Music Toledo warmed up a winter day

Lovers of chamber music are a hardy lot, as yesterday s generous turnout for a Chamber Music Toledo concert at the Maumee Indoor Theater demonstrated.

Braving 40-mph gusts and below-zero wind chill, some 50 devotees showed up to hear Greg Kostraba and Friends in a nicely balanced program of music by Brahms and William Grant Still.

Joined by violinist Rico McNeela and hornist Robert Garcia, pianist and series founder Kostraba delivered a lively and enlightening afternoon of music in a comfortable, if not overly flattering setting.

Flattery for this event would have taken the form of livelier acoustics, the better to make the most of these accomplished and well-matched musicians performances.

Opening the program with Johannes Brahms Trio for Piano, Violin, and Horn, Op. 40, Kostraba set a solid tempo for the Andante, in which violin and horn trade several themes most gracefully, weaving their distinctive sounds to create a shimmering musical fabric.

McNeela s rich sound and agile performance style was a fine foil for the darker color of Garcia s well articulated, sensitive horn playing. The trio was especially fine in the Scherzo: Allegro, the second movement that offered both a lively comeback to the sedate first movement and a strong contrast for the somber third movement, Adagio Mesto.

Any uncertainties in the ensemble were well resolved by the confident finale, an Allegro con Brio.

William Grant Still, considered the dean of African-American classical composers, was paid tribute in the second half of the program, with two brief but lovely works for violin and piano, plus a bonus encore.

McNeela and Kostraba conspired to present a very sympathetic and graceful reading of Still s Pastorela, a gentle reverie that cast piano and violin as equal partners.

In Suite for Violin and Piano, a set of tone poems inspired by artists contemporary to Still, there was more opportunity for development and contrast. African Dancer, the painting by Richard Barthe, lived up to its title with energetic arpeggios for the violin soaring over a driving piano accompaniment. Sargent Johnson s Mother and Child was tenderly lyrical, and, best of all, Gamin, from the painting by Augusta Savage, bounded to a sophisticated ragtime rhythm.

An encore brought Garcia back to join the group for Kostraba s own arrangement of Summerland, one of Still s most popular works. For the brief and charming time of its performance, one could almost imagine the languor of a warm day at least until heading out of the historic theater.

One performance remains in this welcome new series: an appearance by the Tower Brass Quintet on April 27. And, planning for the 2008-2009 season, Kostraba is seeking chamber music aficionados to become charter members of his board of directors. For more information, contact Kostraba at president@chambermusic.org.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.

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