It was an especially young contingent that the Music from Marlboro organization sent to perform at the Smithsonian's Baird Auditorium on Saturday. Pianist Cecile Licad, who took command the instant she began to play, is just 18, and the others in the quartet of strings she led so effortlessly were not much older. These are musicians who have no reputations to live up to, no record to be careful of, nothing at all to lose. They can afford to take chances and they did.
They kept nothing back in their performances of the Copland Piano Quartet, an early Haydn string quartet, and the Dvorak A Major Quintet.
Copland's uncharacteristically introspective quartet received a determined and forceful reading.
The Haydn trio movement was the epitome of classical stylization, and the adagio that followed, the most soulful of graceful songs.
The passion and intensity of the concluding Dvorak (painfully interrupted by a broken violin string) drew cheers from the audience.
These five are already superb musicians and instrumentatalists. If their presentation is overly serious and their search for musical significance overly obvious, it is because they are still breaking new ground for themselves. As time goes on, they may become more inclined to let the music speak for itself.