An Amiable Afternoon Of Music

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Before a single note sounded on Sunday afternoon, the Kennedy Center Chamber Players had already begun to entertain the Terrace Theater audience with a humorous introduction to their first piece.

It was but the beginning of a delightful program that demonstrated this piano quintet's hallmarks: collegial ensemble playing, versatility of styles, and an ability to probe music to its emotional depths.

The quintet regularly features fellow National Symphony Orchestra principals at its concerts. Bassoonist Sue Heineman and bassist Robert Oppelt joined the ensemble's string musicians for a chuckle-inducing performance of Jean Francaix's Divertissement for Bassoon and String Quintet. Heineman's fluid, conversational playing blended smoothly with violinists Nurit Bar-Josef and Marissa Regni, violist Daniel Foster and cellist David Hardy.

Pianist Lambert Orkis set a delicate texture in the opening bars of Faure's lyrically tender Trio in D Minor, Op. 120, supporting the strings' many arialike unison melodies. Bar-Josef's amber violin tone and Hardy's honeyed cello tone infused the Andantino with amorous sensitivity, equally impassioned as quiescent. The concluding movement featured Orkis, who frolicked in its harmonies as the strings negotiated vehement and anguished passages.

The players tend to approach Brahms's chamber works with brainy, brawny intensity, often yielding performances marked by vigor and subdued elegance. Athleticism underpinned much of the Piano Quartet No. 2 in A, Op. 26. But it was the balletic second movement, with its creeping arpeggios and expressive melodies, that left indelible impressions upon the ear.

-- Grace Jean

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