Sarasota Music Festival concludes June 24 at Sarasota Opera House

A fresh breeze continued to flow through the Sarasota Music Festival with three wildly divergent experiences at the third Friday night Festival concert. For the first time in memory, the second half of the program featured an independent guest ensemble: yMusic, a revolutionary sextet of young classical musicians. 

Let’s start with the end, which I hope is really a beginning. For the final 45 minutes of the evening, we heard seven contemporary works, with encore, of “classical” music that stretched the bounds of expectations. The eclectic grouping of string trio with flute, clarinet, and trumpet only hints at the vast expanse of sounds and effects that these musicians employed in their collaboration with the composers represented. The music demanded an astounding level of technical skill, which seemed easy for musicians Alex Sopp, flute; Hideaki Aomori, clarinet; C.J. Camerieri, trumpet; Rob Moose, violin; Nadia Sirota, viola; and Gabriel Cabezas, cello. 

One work particularly resonated for me, thanks to the few words of introduction. Inspired by an over-taxed air conditioning unit in sweltering New York City, Andrew Norman captured its voice in “Music in Circles.” From hints of pitch with scraping and beating bows to muted trumpet and air blown through the tube of the flute, music of a sense emerged as the inner workings intensified. By the end I thought the violin and viola would blow a fuse with all their heroic efforts. I’m hoping we can all agree: It was pretty cool. 

I felt the same way upon hearing Pavel Haas’ Wind Quintet, Op. 10, after music director Jeffrey Kahane’s personal introduction. Haas, only 44 when he was murdered at Auschwitz, had already distinguished himself as an award-winning composer, but left fewer than 40 compositions for us to enjoy. Luckily, this Wind Quintet — effervescent, soulful, and witty — conveys a life-affirming spirit. The quintet — Carol Wincenc, flute; Stephen Taylor, oboe; Charles Neidich, clarinet; William Purvis, horn; and Frank Morelli, bassoon — made the most of the music, adding the color of piccolo and E-flat clarinet, melting and bending pitch for Haas’ humorous and jazzy touches. 

Maybe I was not the only one pleasantly surprised by hearing Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major, Op. 47, yet another time on this stage. This is the bread and butter of chamber music, and I sat back to simply enjoy an old favorite. However, to my delight, the ensemble of Kahane, piano; Frank Almond, violin; Barbara Westphal, viola; and Brinton Smith, cello, made the music speak anew. It’s not one thing that creates this phenomenon but I think it originates in the heart of the performers. They approach and feel the music fresh themselves, as if on a first encounter. The pathos of the famous melody introduced by the cello in the third movement was just that much more. 

I cannot think of a better example of how, in addition to exploring contemporary music, a festival like this can keep everything new and exciting. Please, give us more.