Music from Salem closed its 28th season Saturday night with an excellently played program that also included a premiere.
The evening began with two quartets, both rarely heard: the Allegretto or “All’Ungherese” from Alexander Glazunov’s “Five Novelettes” and Mozart’s String Quartet No. 3 in C Major written when he was 17. The quartet of violinists Markus Placci and Sarah Kim, violist and MFS artistic director Lila Brown, and cellist Jan Mueller-Szeraws was evenly matched with Placci proving a strong leader. Although this was the first time all four musicians had worked together, the group had an impressive simpatico, which made for a consistent musicality.
The Glazunov was a lark in gypsy style that the quartet played with great style and tight ensemble. The Mozart was noteworthy because its composer already had his style fully developed even as a teenager, and the pretty singing melodies and catchy rhythms made the three movements utterly charming.
The quartet played the first movement with a light graceful touch, good balance, a nice rolling tempo and a mellow tone. The second slow movement had piquant and slightly melancholy themes in minor harmonies. The finale was a buoyant romp and short. It was a great job.
Thomas Oboe Lee’s piano quintet “Pq2” got a premiere. Lee has been a Boston College faculty member since 1990 and composed more than 150 works, but this was only his second piano quintet, made at Brown’s request, he told the large crowd. Fond of word games, the composer’s title is an abbreviation for piano quartet number two, and a movement title of “Tsiaj” was a play on a Charles Ives title of “this scherzo is a joke.”
That level of humor surfaced mostly in the scherzos as titled. Otherwise, with pianist Delores Stevens joining the quartet, the first movement moved between long piano lines with the strings making commentary in short motifs like gestures. The Adagio spread out more to allow for soaring violin or cello solos that were very romantic in a French style with hints of Poulenc.
The first scherzo was funky and syncopated with the cello and piano punctuating and the viola filagreeing around the two violins who soared. Placci and Kim smiled at each other each time they had to play these lines. The second scherzo had a lot of fast notes in unison, like a perpetuum mobile. The final Adagio had a lonely, sad melody with the players intersecting each other to end quietly. Lee was pleased and the crowd cheered loudly.
Also on the program was Faure’s Quintet No. 1. It began magically but the constantly moving and often lush, romantic lines in the three movements were often muddied by the volume of sound despite the players’ passion and intent. Rarely did they play below a loud level.