MARLBORO — Marlboro Music Festival opened its 69th season over the weekend with two concerts of topnotch chamber music. Unusually, the highlights of both concerts were vocal works.
On Sunday afternoon, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Printz was featured in an exquisite performance of the 1898 Chanson Perpétuelle, Op. 37, of French Romantic composer Ernest Chausson. She sang this love lament expressively with a lithe and pliable voice, rich but not dark or heavy, reflecting the deep pathos of the work.
Printz was complemented rather than accompanied by a string quartet — violinists Ji Won Song and Abigail Fayette, violist Sharon Wei and cellist Alessio Pianelli — and pianist Lydia Brown. The entire ensemble delivered the plight of a disappointed lover with a deep sensuality that went straight to the heart.
Despite the incredible technical level of most of its participants, Marlboro is actually a music school. Young musicians, some who already have solo careers, spend the summer rehearsing and performing side by side with veteran artists, some from very famous ensembles. Rehearsal time is unlimited and works aren’t performed until deemed “ready.”
Brown, one of the leaders of the vocal program, was also the pianist in Franz Schubert’s 1820 Psalm 23, D. 706 Saturday evening. Sopranos Lucy Fitz Gibbon and Kristina Bachrach, mezzo Printz and alto Sara Couden, with Brown, delivered this exquisite prayer with rich sonorities and expressiveness for a touching reverence. Couden’s deep and mellow contralto added lot to the feeling.
Another outstanding performer — in two works — was the young Hungarian pianist János Palojtay. His easy virtuosity and natural musicality played a pivotal role in two piano trios. On Saturday, Palojtay, with veteran violinist Scott St. John and cellist Brannon Cho, delivered Beethoven’s 1794-95 Trio in E-flat Major, Op. 1, No. 1, with expertise and flair. Due much to Cho’s quiet expressiveness, the slow movement, Adagio Cantabile had a spiritual quality to it.
On Sunday, Mendelssohn’s familiar 1839 Trio in D minor, Op. 49, with Palojtay, violinist Alina Kobialka and renowned cellist Peter Wiley, was performed with drive and passion, but with some technical issues. The slow movement, Andante con moto tranquillo, was particularly beautiful.
Wiley was also playing in the performance of Haydn’s 1790 String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 64, No. 31, that opened Saturday’s program. He, with violinists Alexi Kenney and Rose Hsien and violist Jing Peng, delivered a spirited and virtuosic performance. Although the finale, Allegro con spirit, felt a bit fast, it maintained the works Classical elegance.
Although all performances were good, some didn’t quite match the aforementioned. Beethoven’s 1799 Septet in E-flat Major, Op. 20, suffered from youthful exuberance. And John Harbison’s 1978 Quintet wasn’t quite convincing.
Still, it was a weekend of beautiful and exciting music making.