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Marlboro musicians bring freshness to chamber music

Tuesday's concert by five members of the touring Musicians From Marlboro presented stellar examples of chamber music from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. This may sound pretty traditional, but none of the works performed was overplayed or over-familiar, which gave the program a welcome feeling of freshness.

The artists were pianist Anna Polonsky, violinists Hye-Jin Kim and Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu, violist Philip Kramp and cellist Peter Wiley.

Written in 1797 and dedicated to the pianist Theresa Jansen-Bartolozzi, Haydn's Piano Trio in E-Flat, Hob. XV:29 was originally considered a piano sonata with string accompaniment and clearly highlights the skill of the dedicatee.

Although it is among the most difficult of Haydn's trios, pianist Polonsky was undaunted, leading a performance brimming with a joyousness that often conveyed the feeling that she was improvising. Throughout, her playing was cleanly articulated and nuanced, with fine control of the constantly changing balances and lyric contours.

Mendelssohn's 1825 Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 13, was drawn from elements in his 1825 song "Frage" (Question). More important to the listener, however, is the fact that a supremely lovely theme from the song ("Is it true that you always wait for me in the arbor?") acts as parentheses surrounding the entire Quartet, opening and closing it with a statement of luscious, almost chorale-like satisfaction.

The Marlboro strings sensitively caught the ardor in this extended phrase, even though the transition to the following Allegro section was abrupt. The chromatically sliding and emotional Adagio was rich, but the fugal entrances seemed tentative. The transition from the folksy Intermezzo to the concluding Presto was slashing. The artists gave it all its necessary drama and flourish, but not so intensely that the return of its opening chorale-like beauty seemed out of place.

The program climaxed with Shostakovich's 1940 Piano Quintet, Op. 57. This is music written when the composer had the difficult objectives of being true to his own muse while playing dodge ball with Soviet stylistic censors. The result is a work of startling originality that falls easily on the ear, occasionally surprises us with odd intervals and rhythms, but exudes a natural expressiveness that cannot be denied.

The Quintet has a relentlessness that never grows overbearing because Shostakovich keeps his textures open by frequent use of just two, three or four players. The five movements fall into three major parts, with the first and fourth movements acting like introductions to the heavier movements that follow.

The quiet Intermezzo was for strings only until the late-appearing piano led a transition directly into the finale that was devastating in its simplicity and unexpected melodic turns.

The finale was more straightforward, concluding in an unexpected, quiet upbeat gesture that drew an audible "ah-h-h" from the audience.

> CONCERT REVIEW

Musicians From Marlboro

Presented by the Buffalo Chamber Music Society. Tuesday evening in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall, Symphony Circle.