Brian Moorhead and Michael Strauss don't play together all that often. Moorhead is principal clarinet with the Florida Orchestra. Strauss is principal viola with the Indianapolis Symphony. Both musicians, however, are in the orchestra of the Crested Butte Music Festival in Colorado, and they hit it off when they played chamber music together there last summer.
"As soon as we started playing, we just smiled at each other and enjoyed how the piece unfolded,'' Moorhead said. "It was such a compatible feeling. We just knew at that first moment that we had to play together again. That was the seed of interest.''
Moorhead and Strauss were playing Schumann's Fairy Tales when they had their little epiphany in Colorado, and they'll play it again Tuesday in the first concert of this year's Encore chamber series, celebrating its 10th anniversary season at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg.
As a symphony orchestra musician, Moorhead puts a premium on the opportunity to play chamber music. "These collaborations keep us vibrant and alive and honest and in touch with our instruments more intimately,'' he said. "We have a chance to really give of ourselves and have an even stronger sense of fulfillment when we can reach the audience through the chamber music format.''
Clarinet and viola are fairly uncommon partners — Moorhead calls them "chameleons'' of the orchestra — and this week's concert, with pianist Brent Douglas, will also include Mozart's "Kegelstatt'' trio and selections from Bruch's Op. 83 pieces for clarinet, viola and piano. In addition, Moorhead will play three pieces for solo clarinet by Stravinsky, and Strauss will play Chahagir for solo viola by Hovhaness. The program will also be performed Monday night in Tampa at the University of South Florida.
Mark Sforzini is the artistic director of the Encore series, and he is featured as a composer in the March 16 concert, which will include the premiere of his work based on the 19th century paintings Voyage of Life by Thomas Cole. Sforzini, former principal bassoon with the Florida Orchestra, will play in the March 30 concert. He is also artistic director of the St. Petersburg Opera, which stages most of its productions at the Palladium.
Musicians in the four Encore concerts include members of the Florida Orchestra and Sarasota Orchestra. The Degas Quartet will play string quartets of Puccini (Crisantemi) and Haydn as well as Schumann's Op. 44 quintet, with pianist Grigorios Zamparas, on Feb. 23. Pianist Pascal Roge and violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, former concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra, are featured in the March 16 concert, which includes Faure's Op. 13 sonata for violin and piano.
John Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8716. He blogs on Critics Circle at blogs. tampabay.com/arts.