Pascal Roge is one of France's pre-eminent pianists, so it was pretty special to have him performing with a wind quintet of current and former Florida Orchestra players in Tuesday's Encore chamber music program at St. Petersburg College's Music Center. To hear sextets by quintessential French composers Poulenc and Francaix as anchored by Roge's nimble work at the keyboard was definitive.
The program was also distinguished by the premiere of Mark Sforzini's Sextet for piano and wind quintet, with the composer playing bassoon. The three-movement, 21-minute work was commissioned in memory of Gladys Marie Preis, a dedicated volunteer for St. Petersburg arts organizations who died last year.
Sforzini built the final movement on the note "G'' (for Gladys, he helpfully pointed out in pre-performance remarks). The patterns he wove around the note were a witty tour de force, with a debonair quality that recalled the sort of music that would underscore a scene with Maurice Chevalier in a Parisian boulevard comedy from the '30s. Roge's handling of some breezy little piano runs was sublime.
Sforzini began the Sextet with a dreamy Adagio movement rather than the traditional peppy Allegro, and it effectively laid the groundwork for the dramatic music to come. There was an especially attractive big theme just before the end of the second movement.
The program also featured Brian Moorhead, with Roge, in Bernstein's Clarinet Sonata; and Gershwin's Three Preludes, piano works arranged for wind quintet.
Return Of The Concertmaster: Amy Schwartz Moretti, former concertmaster of the Florida Orchestra, will play chamber music Saturday at Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. It's the annual benefit concert organized by pianist Franz Mantini to fund scholarships at the University of South Florida School of Music and the College of Engineering. Mantini, along with being a fine pianist, is an electrical engineer. Three times he has performed in the Van Cliburn Foundation's International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs. Moretti and Mantini will collaborate on a Brahms sonata. The program will also include works of Tchaikovsky, Schubert and Schumann's Op. 47 Piano Quartet. The other musicians are violist Che-Yen "Brian'' Chen and cellist David Bjella. The concert is at 7 p.m. Saturday. $10, $25. (813) 229-7827; www.tbpac.org.
Pianist: Jeffrey Siegel brings one of his "Keyboard Conversations'' to the Palladium Theater, which is reopening after being closed for a month during renovation of its dressing rooms and lobby concessions area. Siegel made his name with these recitals plus commentary, and has CDs on Mozart, Beethoven and Russian Romantics that make for diverting listening on the daily commute. A year ago, a free concert he gave at the Palladium, to celebrate the theater's acquisition by St. Petersburg College, drew a full house. This time around, the pianist will play (and talk about) Debussy's Claire de Lune, a Chopin Polonaise, Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody and other favorites. The program is at 7:30 p.m. Friday. $10-$20. (727) 822-3590; www.mypalladium.org.
Award: Judy Lisi, president of Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, received the Patrick Hayes Award for lifetime achievement from the International Society for the Performing Arts at the organization's annual meeting this month in New York. Lisi has been active for more than 20 years in the society, which has a membership of about 600 performing arts executives from around the world.
John Fleming can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8716.