The Chamber Players of Central Kentucky offered a varied and delightful program Sunday afternoon at the Singletary Center for the Arts Recital Hall, beginning with a family string quartet, moving on to a world premiere and concluding with a wind quintet composed of principal players from the Lexington Philharmonic.
The Karp Family Quartet is anchored by the parents, first violinist Margaret and cellist Benjamin, professional musicians and educators well-known throughout the region. Their teenage sons, second violinist Jonathan and violist Aaron, are talented amateurs. Together, the family played cohesively and congenially.
They opened the concert with the first movement from Mendelssohn's String Quartet No. 2. Benjamin Karp's elegant, nuanced playing laid a strong foundation for the ensemble, allowing Margaret Karp's expressivity to carry the melodic content.
The Karps clearly relished the opportunity to play Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8. Their energetic interpretation was propelled by strong senses of rhythm and instrumental color. For example, the pale and somber duet between the violins in the first movement was excellent, and the clean articulation of the fast second movement gave the music fierce urgency, especially in the raw emotion of the viola solo. In the third movement, the extended trills in the inner voices played by the boys set up an ironic atmosphere that contrasted effectively with the melancholy fourth movement, in which Benjamin Karp's beautiful, haunting solo in the treble reaches of the cello, with the violins careening wildly behind him, proved the artistic apex of the afternoon. The poignant final movement also featured lovely solos from the parents.
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The second half of the concert opened with the world premiere of a fun, accessible piece, P.S. It's a Silverstein Trio by University of Kentucky doctoral candidate Adam Sovkoplas. Scored for violin, cello and bassoon, this new trio gives musical interpretation to four poems by Shel Silverstein, which the composer read aloud before each movement. Since this was part of the performance, he should have taken the stage to do so, as he was shrouded in darkness standing on the floor to the side of the hall. Margaret and Benjamin Karp were joined by the work's dedicatee, bassoonist Peter Simpson, for this premiere performance.
The musical content of the Silverstein Trio is cute and quirky, calling for unusual sonorities from the instruments, and Sovkoplas was generous in giving lots of beautiful melodic material to the bassoon. The third movement, "Enter This Deserted House," contains particularly imaginative music, aurally descriptive of the poem's imagery.
The remainder of the concert was given over to the Lexington Philharmonic Wind Quintet: Simpson, flutist Merilee Elliott, oboist Nancy Clauter, clarinetist Michael Acord and horn player David Elliott, all well-respected musicians and teachers in the region. They offered three light works, all pleasant and well-played.
The quintet's segment opened with American composer Vincent Persichetti's Pastoral, in which Elliott drew exceptionally sumptuous sound from the horn. They followed that with a French morsel from the Romantic period, Charles Lefebvre's Suite for Wind Quintet, Op. 57, highlighted by the charming, intricate second movement. The concert closed with Five Dances by Hungarian-American composer Denes Agay. This piece began promisingly with a toe-tapping polka, but the Latin dances and waltz that followed seemed underpowered, especially the very tame tango.