Czech composer Antonin Dvorak famously spent several years in the United States during the 1890s. The Embassy of the Czech Republic celebrates the connection — and what would be the composer’s 170th birthday — with a Mutual Inspirations Festival. The festival continued Thursday with a performance by members of Washington Musica Viva.
The Dvorak on the program was the “Moravian Duets” Op. 32. In these charming, simple pieces, Dvorak used the words of folk songs, mostly substituting his melodies and harmonies for the original music. They were instantly popular, and they have the same spring-meadow freshness today. Soprano Elizabeth Kluegel and mezzo-soprano Karyn Friedman had an admirable blend of vocal tone color, important because the parts are often joined in pleasing harmonies.
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu came to the United States while fleeing the Nazi advance on Paris in 1941. His first piano quartet percolates with the syncopations and rhythmic displacements of Stravinsky and American jazz. As a result, both fast outer movements were fraught with effort in this performance. Director Carl Banner should have closed the piano lid as his often over-insistent sound forced singers and string players toward stridency.
Other concerts and cultural events are offered by the Mutual Inspirations Festival through Oct. 28.
Downey is a freelance writer.