Breath of fresh air from Chamber Music Milwaukee
Woodwind and brass music bring UWM's chamber music series to a charming conclusion.
Classical music isn’t always weighty and philosophical. Sometimes it’s just fun, to play and to hear. So it was Thursday at Chamber Music Milwaukee’s winds-and-brass season closer.
Horn player Gregory Flint and clarinetist Todd Levy curate the mixed chamber series, so they might have seen this as saving the best for last. They set an all-star line-up loose on Mozart’s Serenade No. 11, K. 375; David Borsheim’s elegant transcription of Hindemith’s Organ Sonata No. 2 and Sigfrid Karg-Elert’s Wind Trio in D minor, Opus 49. (You’ll always hear at least one thing you’ve never heard — or heard of — at Chamber Music Milwaukee.)
Levy, flutist Jennifer Clippert and Margaret Butler, english horn, followed with Karg-Elert’s (1877-1933) trio, a sweet little thing that looks back fondly to the Baroque from the early 2oth century. The suite comprises a brief, melodious introduction, a double fugue, a moodily chromatic sarabande and a closing rigaudon and musette. Karg-Elert’s harmonies show French influence, and the intro and sarabande are mood pieces in the way of French miniatures. A fugue is a fugue; this one moves along logically and briskly, but it is lacy, light, transparent. The players settled into the walk-in-the-garden ethos of this understated, beguiling music.
The Apollonian wit of Hindemith’s organ sonata came through in the assured reading of trumpeters Kevin Hartman and Josh Haake, Flint, trombonist Mark Hoelscher and tubist Mark Gaunt. Crisp rhythm and clarifying balance made it easy to appreciate Hindemith’s clever counterpoint, variation and rhythmic surprise.
Mozart wrote his serenades as charming background music, and indifferent performances do turn them into muzak. But oboists Butler and Katherine Young Steele, clarinetists Levy and Katharine Kohler, bassoonists Ted Soluri and Beth Giacobassi and horn players Flint and Dietrich Hemann were not about to let that happen. Beyond beautiful intonation and excellent ensemble, they gave distinct character and shape to Mozart’s lines. Arpeggio accompaniments sparkled, the dance movements lifted and lilted, the brief shifts into minor came off as mock pathos, all part of the sly and modest humor that extends across all five movements.
The first clarinet plays almost all the way through, but Levy “conducted” with head, shoulders and eyebrows, and his colleagues picked up on his energy. That energy, of just the right sort and amount, made for an endlessly charming and graceful serenade, music to make you smile.
Chamber Music Milwaukee is a program of the UWM Department of Music. This and all CMM concerts took place in the UWM Zelazo Center.