MARLBORO — Marlboro Music Festival closed its 2019 season Sunday with its nearly annual celebration of joy — but with a difference.
Jonathan Biss, now co-artistic director with Mitsuko Uchida, was the piano soloist in the enthusiastic community performance of Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy,” Op. 80. The festival’s solo singers joined an orchestra of the festival’s instrumentalists and a chorus of area community members all led by a violinist from the concertmaster chair.
While this performance of the composer’s sketch for the Ninth Symphony lacked the precision of a major symphony orchestra, it exploded with the joy of camaraderie that has long been a trademark of Marlboro — one that the audience shared.
The “Choral Fantasy” was only one work in a weekend full of fine performances, including Sunday’s particularly expert performance of Béla Bartók’s 1927 String Quartet No. 3. Violinists Mari Lee and Carmit Zori, violist En-Chi Cheng and cellist Julia Yang played with an exactness, clarity and expressiveness, as well as a depth of understanding that made real sense of this thorny work.
The weekend also served to introduce 30-something Italian pianist Gloria Campaner, who played in a more romantic style than is usual at Marlboro (the classicism Uchida and co-founder Rudolf Serkin’s). Her flowing lines and singing tone served to illuminate two very different works.
On Saturday, Campaner was joined in three of the 1910 Acht Stücke (Eight Pieces), Op. 83 by Max Bruch by clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein and violist Jordan Bak. In a spirited and particularly expressive performance, Bak, Fiterstein and Campaner nearly “sang,” particularly in the finale — it was gorgeous.
Beautiful sounds of a different color were achieved Sunday when Campaner was joined in an excellent performance of Francis Poulenc’s 1933-39 Sextuor by flutist Giorgio Consolati, oboist Nathan Hughes, clarinetist Yoonah Kim, bassoonist Catherine Chen and French hornist Trevor Nuckøls. They achieved the nuance and sensual blend of sounds that makes French music so irresistible.
A very different blend of sounds was created in Franz Schubert’s 1819 “Cantata for the Birthday of Singer Johann Michael Vogl,” D. 666. Pianist Lydia Brown led fine singers from this year’s vocal program, soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon, tenor Miles Mykkanen and baritone Simon Barrad, solo, in duets and a trio in Schubert’s typically sympathetic setting of Albert Stadler’s poetry. This was an expert lieder performance. (Fitz Gibbon was responsible for the English translation form the German.)
In Schubert’s String Quartet in G Major, D. 887 Saturday, Lin, Rose Hsien, Tanner Menees and Yi Qun Xu played with precision and control, but with a relentless quality. The exception was the trio in the Scherzo, which was lyrical, intimate and exquisite. The program opened with a rather exuberant performance of Beethoven’s Piano Trio in G Major, Op. 1, No. 2, by pianist Anna Polonsky, violinist Brian Hong and cellist Christine J. Lee, but with a light and witty finale.
Marlboro continues to contribute substantially to the quality of the world’s chamber music.