Houston Chronicle, TX
June 9 2005

Texas Music Festival's opening concert has it both ways

CLASSICAL/NEOCLASSICAL, the opening concert of the 2005 Texas Music
Festival, was an engaging illustration of a basic instinct in art:
having cake and eating it, too.

Arts aficionados love to appear up-to-date without sacrificing
tradition. In classical music, that's been played out in such
20th-century styles as neoclassicism and neoromanticism. Composers
used essential musical traits of those historic periods to make
(conservative) sense out of the riot-like expansion of melody,
harmony and form in the last century.

Two "classic" works for strings framed Tuesday's concert at the
University of Houston Moores Opera House: Michael Haydn's Quintet in
C Major, P. 108, and Mozart's Quintet in C Major, K. 515. Both
expanded the string quartet with an extra viola.

In the program's opening work, Haydn, the young brother of Franz
Joseph Haydn, set out the parameters efficiently. The forms were
clear-cut but developed via some very entrancing music.

In the Mozart quintet, the forms and style were expressed in suave
and sophisticated terms. Charm was never far away - the last movement
was toe-tapping good - but the music had a depth of feeling and
intelligence that Haydn's lacked.

Both performances featured violinists Kenneth Goldsmith and Lucie
Robert, violists Rita Porfiris and Karen Ritscher, and cellist Kevin
Dvorak. Their ensemble playing wasn't always tidy, but they conveyed
the spirit of the music very well.

Paul Hindemith was a proponent of practicality and conservatism in
20th-century composition. Though key works have an elegant beauty,
others can be thornier. The Quartet (1938) for violin, clarinet,
cello and piano was one of those, at least on Tuesday.

British clarinetist David Palmer played gorgeously in terms of tone
and expression, but he was way too timid and deferential to the other
players (Goldsmith, Dvorak and pianist Timothy Hester). His
reluctance to lead when the clarinet had key melodies threw balance
out of kilter. The piano ended up dominating too much.

Armenian-born and Russian-trained cellist Vagram Saradjian offered
the American premiere of the Suite for Solo Cello by Armenian
composer Levon Chaoushian. Stylistically, the work was faintly rooted
in tonality but generally strayed further from the ideals of
neoclassicism than Hindemith's.

Saradjian is always an intensely involved performer and he dug into
the music with his customary exuberance. The music exploded from his
strings, though the physicality of his playing produced too many
extraneous sounds.