There was a little something for everyone at the Embassy of the Czech Republic on Monday evening. The Washington Musica Viva chamber ensemble offered up an assortment of works by Czech composers like a dessert sampler -- a medley that wisely included familiar favorites among the unusual innovations.
Perhaps only Parisian food and French wine could have sparked the creation of Bohuslav Martinu's "La Revue de Cuisine," a 1927 ballet about romance and jealousy among various kitchen utensils.
Tokyo-born conductor Masatoshi Mitsumoto led a sextet through the jazz-influenced work. Trumpeter Chris Royal, saxophonist Rhonda Buckley, bassoonist Ben Greanya, violinist Hasse Borup, cellist Amy Leung and pianist Carl Banner gave the four-movement suite a comical and colorful performance.
According to Musica Viva founder Banner, a botched love affair prompted Gustav Mahler to compose "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen" ("Songs of a Wayfarer"). With Banner at the keyboard, mezzo-soprano Karyn Friedman captured the drama and spite of a spurned lover over its four songs. She has a solid and unexpectedly resonant voice that emotes naturally. The tragic and operatic "Ich hab' ein gluhend Messer" ("I Have a Burning Knife") inspired her best performance.
The husband-and-wife team of Borup and Leung opened the concert with Erwin Schulhoff's "Duo for Violin and Cello" and closed it with Banner on Dvorak's Piano Trio in G Minor, Op. 26. Both string players have intense, darkly hued tones and excel in fast and loud movements. Their Dvorak ended the concert as a chocolate souffle would end a fine meal -- contented smiles all around.
-- Grace Jean