As concerts go, the Washington debut of the Cleveland Institute of Music Chamber Players Friday night was neither terribly daring nor taxing. But for the 100 or so blissful minutes these players commanded the stage at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, they made music that will live long in the memory.
It takes confident artistry to program such standards as Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante and Mendelssohn's "Scottish" Symphony when the audiences have heard both works dozens of times. Imagine, then, the remarkable talent possessed by conductor Michael Stern and this group of some 50 musicians who can conjure the sensation of listening to this music for the very first time.
Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra is a masterpiece and on this occasion was a magnificent dance between soloists David Cerone and Roberto Diaz. But while they played their roles superbly, it was the joyous underpinning provided by the ensemble that was so enticing. Stern spun the Andante with unwavering delicacy; the Allegro was majesty incarnate.
Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56, was almost as compelling. True, the ensemble appeared to lose definition in the mists of Andante con moto. There again, the Allegro vivacissimo was laden with dramatic tension and the Vivace non troppo, with its brilliant brass and woodwind figurations, was as live and exhilarating as one could wish.
Stravinsky's "Danses concertantes" were precisely contoured throughout with flutist Elizabeth Cody, oboist Kelly Peterson and clarinetist Charles Messersmith shining particularly brightly.
But this reviewer would trade it all to hear this ensemble play the Mozart with the same sweet conviction one more time.