SARASOTA — The La Musica Chamber Music Festival began Monday with a diverse program by Beethoven, Ravel and Dvorak before a full house of 750 in the St. Thomas More Church. Though not note-perfect, performances were exciting and, on balance, really good chamber music.
Former Florida Orchestra concertmaster Ellen dePasquale was featured in the first two works, which were the most entertaining. She combined with pianist Derek Han and cellist Andres Diaz in the Piano Trio, Op. 1, No. 3, by Beethoven to start things off.
The playing was brisk, precise and very clean. There were many fine moments, the best of which was the trio section of the third movement, where the three musicians seemed to reach a level of playing that sounded elegant and totally appropriate. The only problem was Han's decision to play with the piano lid fully up, thus covering his string players at times.
The contrast was quite extreme when dePasquale and Diaz returned for the Sonata for Violin and Cello by Ravel. This 1922 gem is a difficult, austere piece filled with musical and harmonic complexity.
The performers took the time to give the slow movement a lot of energy and passion, then played the finale with intensity that brought cheers. This is not accessible, "pretty" music; that it produced such a strong reaction is proof that the artists had reached their listeners.
Though I endorse the enthusiasm displayed for the Ravel, I don't agree with the equally strong response given to the Dvorak Piano Quartet, Op. 87.
Han's playing had surprising slips in both outer movements. By themselves these minor errors would not be sufficient to undermine the work. But Han also played too loudly for the strings, who didn't have the volume heard earlier in the evening.
The performers were violinist Federico Agostini, violist Bruno Giuranna and cellist Xenia Jankovic. All played accurately and beautifully, but the piano too often overshadowed them.
Albert H. Cohen may be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.