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Published: Monday, 4/14/2008

Blade Chamber Series serves musical morsels


Hindemith was the musical amuse bouche for last night s final Blade Chamber Series concert in the Toledo Club, a delicious prelude to a most memorable program.

Principal trumpet Lauraine Carpenter and pianist Valrie Kantorski deftly served the German composer s 1939 work, honoring Hindemith s spare, elegant style and progressive harmonies.

Carpenter s well-controlled, golden horn sound and straightforward playing was exactly the right amount of richness this work needs to succeed. Kantorski s partnering was precise and equally restrained. It was a fine local premiere.

Schumann s most famed chamber work, the Piano Quintet in E Flat Major, came next, an entr e superbly prepared, beautifully presented, and satisfying to the last earful.

The orchestra s top string players: Kirk Toth and Naomi Guy, violins; Valentin Ragusitu, viola, and Martha Reikow, cello, were joined by Kantorski for the performance.

Of special delight were the contrasts in color and tone that helped define and balance passages shared by Toth and Reikow, whose playing is both cooler and lighter compared to that of Guy and Ragusitu, who dig into their instruments and deliver a richer, warmer musical effect. If Kantorski seemed less assured and assertive in the last two movements, all four string players were unanimous in their focus, intensity, and drama from start to finish.

As if this were not satisfying enough, along came Paul Moravec s Tempest Fantasy, a five-part 2003 work inspired by Shakespeare s most magical play and performed with sufficient sweetness, verve, electricity, and skill. It was dessert, brandy, and even fireworks for the evening.

Moravec, a Buffalo native, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for this work, which grew from a piano solo to an innovative, wonderfully voiced quartet. Three movements summon memorable characters from The Tempest Ariel, Prospero, and Caliban followed by Sweet Airs, an intermezzo, and then a stormy Fantasia.

Brief, lively melodies weave intricately through thickets of harmonies, the action driven by passionate rhythms passed from strings to piano. Clarinet bass clarinet in the third section is used for accent, color, and ostinato.

Players Merwin Siu, violin; Robert Clemens, cello, Georg Klaas, clarinet, and pianist Stefan Kasch exploded as an ensemble, turning this symphony premiere into a triumph. And they did it despite a false start.

It just didn t click, said Siu after the performance. We wanted to do right by it. So, with a signal, they started over. This time it was click, click, clickclickclick to the final explosive chords.

The evening also was a debut of sorts for Kasch, a Danish pianist who has delayed entering the local music scene. Now that he has, the smart money is on Kasch to make a strong musical impact with his sensitive, energizing performance style.

Contact Sally Vallongo at: svallongo@theblade.com.

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