REVIEW: Chamber music meets 21st century

Chamber music meets 21st centuryby Richard Storm

New York-based, Sarasota-connected, the talented musicians of Sybarite5 proved that their successful concert here last year was no fluke.

Sarah Whitney and Sami Merdinian, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass, presented a program of “modern” chamber music that surpassed even the high standards set in that performance.

Beginning with a risky arrangement (by Levitt) of the Overture from Igor Stravinsky’s 1920 ballet, “Pulcinella” in which customary orchestral color was replaced with edgy transparency, the quintet made it clear that they were ready to meet any and all of the challenges the evening would present.

Dan Visconti’s “Black Bend” is a fascinating exercise in ways to explore the far reaches of customary tonality, bringing forth country music inflections in a gripping series of scorching riffs before the sly joke of a false ending.

This was a good transition to the winner of the “New Music Idol” contest conducted by the quintet during their visit: New College student Brendon Rivers’ brief but effective “Blues for Amisted,” an intense and classically folkloric reflection on our past.

It might be tempting to dismiss yet another performance of Samuel Barber’s iconic “Adagio for Strings.” Not this time. Heard in a configuration close in sonority to the original version for string quartet, Barber’s masterpiece packed enormous and touching impact in a supremely musical rendition. A different kind of intensity was heard in the angular and mysteriously lyrical “Furioso Vendetta for String Quintet” by Thomas Osborne.

The official program ended with gorgeous readings of two tangos by Astor Piazzolla in which glowing string tone and rhythmic vitality were in ample supply, but not before we heard, for a second year, from “Radiohead Remixed” by Paul Sanho Kim, a beautiful and touching collection of melody and rhythm, exploring every aspect, including the percussive, of string instruments and their players.

An encore of Led Zepplin’s wonderful “Heartbreaker” was truly the icing on a memorable and delicious cake.

CONCERT REVIEW

SYBARITE5. Reviewed May 15 at Holley Hall.

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