Okay, hold on. Concerts of contemporary chamber music are supposed to be difficult, cerebral events, right? Attended by a handful of po-faced graybeards, half of whom sneak out at intermission? So what was with the packed house on Saturday night for Sybarite5, a string quintet that plays almost exclusively modern music? What was all that impassioned playing, those hard-driving rhythms, the blissed-out faces of the mostly young audience? And what about the cheering — the actual cheering — that filled the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue when the group returned onstage after intermission? Is this what modern music has come to? Genuine, spontaneous . . . excitement?
We can only hope. This cheerfully free-ranging ensemble (a string quartet, with added double bass) aimed its performance squarely at 21st-century ears, mixing new works from classical composers with Armenian folk songs, 1950s jazz by Dave Brubeck, the music of Radiohead, a bit of fluff from the pop band a-Ha, a snippet of Mozart and even an Argentinian tango or two. That kind of kitchen-sink eclecticism might sound a little contrived, but it made perfect sense in performance — maybe because of the visceral, even sensual expressiveness that the musicians of Sybarite5 brought to everything they played, and maybe because it was all — as violinist Sarah Whitney declared from the stage — “music we love.”