Chamber Music Festival's Sounds of Slovenia

Friday, August 5, 2005

The Capitol Hill Chamber Music Festival got off to an exhilarating start Wednesday night at St. Mark's Church. Marking the festival's sixth year, artistic director and flutist Jeffrey Cohan assembled a trio of concerts that brought to public attention some largely unknown works -- including two world premieres -- by active composers from Slovenia.

Cohan did much of his research by e-mail with the Slovenian composers, who sent him snippets of their music to try. He hopes to organize an exchange concert of American music to be given soon in Ljubljana, Slovenia's capital.

Cohan uses Slovenian works in two of the three concerts, Wednesday's devoted to music by Jakob Jez, his daughter Brina Jez, Aldo Kumar, Crt Sojar Voglar, Peter Kopac, Jani Golob and Blaz Pucihar.

Six of the nine pieces included flutist Cohan, variously combined with harpsichordist Joseph Gascho, soprano Kate Vetter Cain, violinist and violist Branko Brezavscek (Brina Jez's husband) and pianist Jeffrey Chappell.

From piece to piece, Cohan's artistry was evident as he breathed life into his instrument, seeming to find no limit to its sonic possibilities, ways of articulating phrases and modes of expressing composers' personal styles -- as in Brina Jez's beautifully moody "Three Little Pieces." Chappell gave a brilliant account of Kopac's Preludes for solo piano, and Cain's sweetness of timbre and vocal power suited compositions by Brina Jez and Kopac.

Tonight's program will detour from the festival's Slovenian path to cover Bach's Cantata No. 209, his Suite in B Minor for flute and chamber orchestra, and unusual works by Franz Joseph Haydn and Johann Joachim Quantz, who was Frederick the Great's flute teacher.

Sunday's concert will continue with Slovenian fare.

Two other first-rate musicians, violinist Risa Browder and cellist John Moran, will join in for the remaining festival performances.

-- Cecelia Porter

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