The annual Chapel Hill Chamber Music Workshop got underway on June 2 with a faculty concert in Person Recital Hall at UNC. Like the other offerings during the weeklong workshop, the eleventh such in what one can only hope will be a long-running series, the faculty program was not extensively advertised. One reason for this is that Person Hall is small, and attendees can (and often do) fill it to overflowing before the first "civilian" can find a seat. Still, the programs are worth hearing. On the afternoon of June 2, players from as far away as Brussels and Israel entertained a large crowd with music by Daniel Gregory Mason, the grandson of hymnodist Lowell Mason, and by Mozart and Dvorak. The works selected typified the eclectic nature of the workshop and concurrently allowed representatives of both the wind and the string groups to strut their stuff. Anchoring all of this were two pianists-and featured in the middle of the show were members of the Carolina Wind Quintet.
Mason's "Pastoral," for piano, violin and clarinet, brought back Benjamin Rawitz, Rebekah Binford, and Freddy Arteel, all of whom have previously visited Chapel Hill for these workshops. The music is pleasant enough, and the performance made a good case for it. That said, this work by a late representative of the Boston group of composers who were heavily influenced by the German school made little lasting impression, for it sounded like warmed-over Brahms with (as another attendee noted) more than a slight infusion of Fauré.
Mozart's Quintet for Piano and Winds, K.452, involved Rawitz and oboist Michael Schultz, clarinetist (and workshop director) Donald L. Oehler, hornist Kimberly van Pelt, and bassoonist John Pederson. Like the Mason that preceded it, this much-loved score sounded a bit too large for the space in which it was played. It began without much light or shade, but by the second movement, things had improved (or we'd readjusted to the room's acoustics). The reading itself was, overall, technically polished, and the crowd responded warmly to it. Dvorak's Piano Quintet (in A, Op. 81), was grandly realized by returning faculty members Diana Barker, piano, violinists Kati Sebestyen and Sarah Johnson, violist Ervin Schiffer, and cellist Alan Smith. Barker and Smith constitute the Guarneri Duo and were formerly based in the Triangle. He happens to possess a cello by the artisan whose name he and his spouse have adopted for their chamber group, and its tone is among the richest and most radiant we have ever heard, anywhere. There were some minor ensemble glitches along the way, but this performance basically glowed from within, and it made a very strong impression on those who were fortunate enough to hear it.
By the time this review appears, a recital by the Janus Duo will have come and gone, but two more workshop programs remain. See our calendar for details. In addition, readers who are now scratching their heads and wondering why there was so little publicity might want to mark their appointment books for next year. The workshop almost always begins on the first Sunday in June.