The University of Utah's school of music hasn't neglected Mozart during his 250th birthday celebration this year. Since the beginning of February, the U. has been offering concerts focusing on different genres in the composer's output, from opera and choral works to concertos to chamber music to songs and arias.
The series continued Sunday with chamber music featuring three incomparable works the Oboe Quartet in F major, K. 370; the Horn Quintet in E flat major, K. 407; and the Piano Quartet in E flat major, K. 493.
Sunday's concert also saw the debut of the school's newest ensemble, the Faculty Chamber Players. The music department's stated objective is to give the Chamber Players its own series beginning next year a goal that will certainly enhance Salt Lake City's already plentiful musical offerings.
The players, many of whom are members of the Utah Symphony, got off to an impressive start with performances of the highest artistic quality, which underscored yet again that Salt Lake City has some of the finest chamber musicians in the country.
Throughout the evening, the musicians exhibited remarkable ensemble playing and a collaborative spirit that infused their interpretations with dynamic vitality and enthusiastic energy.
The concert opened with the Oboe Quartet, played by the symphony's principal oboe Robert Stephenson. He was joined by the symphony's associate principal viola Roberta Zalkind, along with violinist Hasse Borup and cellist Steve Emerson.
The Oboe Quartet is one of Mozart's most genial chamber works. That the oboe was a favored instrument of his is rather obvious in the manner in which Mozart lovingly crafted its part, while integrating it effortlessly into the string textures.
Stephenson gave a radiant reading, wonderfully supported by his colleagues. They captured the lyricism and amiable character of the outer movements compellingly, while bringing a gentle poignancy to the Adagio.
Mozart wrote several notable works for French horn, not the least of which is the magnificent Quintet, K. 407. Richly scored for two violas, along with violin and cello, the work exudes a warmth that doesn't dispel either the exuberance of the opening movement or the sunny brightness of the finale.
Utah Symphony hornist Stephen Proser gave a captivatingly dynamic performance, displaying digital nimbleness in the finale as well as showing his expressive side in the eloquent Andante. He was partnered by Borup, Zalkind, Emerson and violist Robert Baldwin, who matched his nuanced playing wondrously.
Mozart's instrument of choice was the piano, so it is no wonder that he would pour some of his most substantial musical thoughts into the works he composed for the keyboard. This is certainly true of the Piano Quartet, K. 493, the final work on Sunday's concert. The quartet is written on a larger scale than the other two works on the program, and is comparable in scope to Mozart's string quartets and quintets.Pianist Jeffrey Price, along with Borup, Baldwin and cellist Elliott Cheney, didn't glide over the magnitude of the music in their reading. They gave a wonderfully dazzling performance that vividly captured the work's vibrancy, seamless lyricism and occasional humor.