FORT WORTH The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth opened a new season under a new music director on Saturday afternoon. To say that the occasion was auspicious would be understating the matter.
Gary Levinson, who is a prominent violinist in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, is the society’s new artistic guide, succeeding longtime director Robert Davidovici. Levinson’s debut program in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth featured the superb Miró Quartet, which, as expected, gave an outstanding performance.
Not necessarily expected, but perhaps indicative of things to come, was the quality of the music presented. A member of the quartet told the audience in brief remarks that most, if not all, of the program was “at the suggestion” of Levinson.
This included three of the greatest masterpieces of the string-quartet literature and one of America’s most beloved pieces of classical music: Schubert’s quartet movement in C minor, Ravel’s Quartet in F Major, Beethoven’s second “Rasumovsky” quartet and the original version of Barber’s Adagio for Strings.
It would be hard to devise another program that equaled the combination of high artistic caliber and sheer musical pleasure of this one.
The members of the Miróó Quartet, based at the University of Texas at Austin, are violinists Daniel Ching and William Fedkenheuer, violist John Largesse and cellist Joshua Gindele. Their artistry has been demonstrated in Fort Worth before. They produce a mellow sound balanced by a keen dramatic sense, precision of pitch and ensemble, and an admirable mastery of musical teamwork.
Schubert is known among music-lovers for his “Unfinished” Symphony. Less well known is that the quartet movement played Saturday is from another unfinished work (of which Schubert left many). It’s a great masterpiece, which makes it all the more regrettable that some early 19th-century musical patron didn’t commission him to complete the quartet.
The Miró Quartet gave the movement a performance that was mellow in sound and dramatic in effect, with notable playing by Ching and Gindele.
Ravel’s quartet was given an equally effective performance that was strikingly different in atmosphere, with some particularly lovely playing by all four of the Mirós. Lyricism suffused the work.
Barber’s Adagio was, as usual, quite moving. It was played in its original form, as the movement of a string quartet. The more familiar version is an arrangement for a fuller body of strings.
Beethoven’s second “Rasumovsky” was given a brilliant performance that explored the many facets of this great work. The whole was captivating and alone was worth the price of admission.
The program, dedicated to the memory of the late arts supporter Robert Lee Howald, increased the sense of anticipation at what Levinson may bring to the Fort Worth musical community. It will be hard to top this one.