If you wanted to, you could label Sunday's concert up in Park City an evening of seldom heard works. Included in the evening's program was a famous piece by a not so famous composer and a not so famous piece by a famous composer, all performed by another superb cast of musicians.
The concert opened with two works by the Mexican composer Manuel Ponce, performed by violinist Manuel Ramos and pianist Timothy Hester. They began with the "Sonata Breve." This three-movement work is a short neo-classical essay. There's a relentless urgency in the music here that's reminiscent of the music of Martinu.As Ramos noted in his remarks, Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of Ponce's death. And the second work that Ramos and Hester played was the world-famous "Estralita," as arranged by Jascha Heifitz. Ramos made his violin sing as he played this sentimental, yet saucy, tune, letting his violin soar as if it had a life of its own.
Russell Harlow and Michael Webster then teamed up with Hester to play one of Mendelssohn's least-known works, the "Concert Piece for Clarinet, Basset Horn and Piano." This melodic three-movement piece is basically a playful duet between the two wood-winds, with occasional intrusions by the piano.
(In case you're wondering, the basset horn is a clarinet with an extended lower range.)
Before the first half of the concert was over, the audience feasted on a magnificent interpretation of Joaquin Turina's Piano Quartet (performed by Arturo Delmoni, violin; Leslie Harlow, viola; Catherine Lehr, cello; with Hester once again at the piano). This is one of Turina's finest works. The music is romantic, almost sentimental, very Spanish in character and utterly beautiful.
The performers brought out all the many subtle nuances of the music effortlessly. The Turina quartet is not as easy to play as it sounds. The music comes across as fairly straightforward, but the trick lies in bringing out all the different facets of the music - the Spanish, the romantic, the classical structure - in a credible performance. And these musicians succeeded brilliantly.
Louis Spohr's Grand Nonet was the only work in the second half of the concert. But before that was played, French horn player Peter Gordon gave an impromptu performance of a jazz piece, "Blues and Variations for Monk," that was both a surprise and a delight to hear. Gordon, who was also part of the ensemble that played the Nonet, is an extremely agile and versatile horn player.
The Nonet was performed to perfection by a strong ensemble of string and woodwind players. Spohr's music looks back to the classical style of Mozart and not ahead to the romantic. Listening to his music, it's hard to believe that he was a contemporary of Beethoven and, in fact, outlived him by some 30 years. But it's melodic and well-written and certainly deserves to be played.