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15.3.08

Schubert, Mozart, and Dvořák Festival

Auryn Quartett, photo by Manfred Esser
Auryn Quartet, photo by Manfred Esser
For over a quarter-century the Schubert, Schubert, and Schubert festival has offered an annual weekend of chamber music, most of it by Franz Schubert. While everything else in the world seems to have become more expensive, tickets to these concerts are still the same price as always, $5 each or $10 for the series of three. On Friday night, the Cologne-based Auryn Quartet came back to Georgetown's Gaston Hall to play the first of three recital programs.

The concert opened with Schubert's tenth string quartet (D. 87), a rarely heard work composed when the composer was only 16. While this charming minor quartet is not yet in his mature voice, there were glimmers of melodic fecundity in the scherzo's main theme, reminiscent of a donkey's bray, and harmonic richness in the homophonic slow movement. Concern over the auditorium's noisy heating system delayed the concert: a subsequent lack of concentration may have accounted for problems of intonation and ensemble. Keeping the Steinway's lid open caused balance problems in Mozart's G minor piano quartet, K. 478. The technically proficient pianist, Polina Leschenko, tended to rush in fast passages, leading to a breathless, unsettled quality, but the second movement especially glimmered with a delicate, pearly sheen.

Dvořák's A major piano quintet, op. 81, was the most pleasing work on the program, not least because the group's full sound showed how comparatively restrained the first half had been. Cellist Andreas Arndt and violist Stewart Eaton delighted in their solo moments, and the group presented a pleasing tableau of colors, from the rustic folk lament to the silvery twinkle of the salon. The audience's generous applause was directed not only to the performers, but also to the Austrian Embassy and the anonymous donor who made this year's festival possible.

The Schubert, Schubert, and Schubert festival continues tonight and Sunday night (March 15 and 16, 8 pm). Pianist Polina Leschenko and clarinetist Michael Collins join the Auryn Quartet for programs that include Schubert's E-flat piano trio (D. 929) and the Brahms B minor clarinet quintet, op. 115 (tonight); and Schumann's Fantasiestücke for clarinet and piano (op. 73), Schubert's Rosamunde quartet (D. 804), and Mozart's A major clarinet quintet, K. 581 (Sunday). The two clarinet quintets especially are worth hearing as many times as possible, especially for $5 each.

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