For a city of its size, Milwaukee has a decent amount of professional-level chamber music. One of our better series is Chamber Music Milwaukee (CMM). While it is primarily conceived to showcase music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, CMM also brings in high-quality guest artists at times. CMM deserves a wider community audience, beyond those folks who typically attend events at UWM.
CMM presented an interesting concert of three major pieces last Thursday evening at Helen Bader Concert Hall. Margaret Butler, an oboist who plays with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in addition to her teaching duties at UWM, performed Phantasy for Oboe and String Trio, Op. 2, composed by Benjamin Britten at age 19. Britten’s immediately recognizable style had not yet emerged in 1932, but the music is convincing and has natural expression. The influence of his teacher, Frank Bridge, is strong. Butler played with sensitive and lovely tone, making tangible the sometimesabstract phrases.
Hornist Greg Flint was featured in Mozart’s Quintet for Horn, Violin, 2 Violas and Cello, playing with a clean, round sound and admirable agility. Clarinetist Todd Levy, principal at MSO and teacher at UWM, was heard in Brahms’ Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B minor. Levy’s masterful phrasing and subtleties were a deep pleasure, bringing this great quintet to life in a profound performance.
Members of the Arcas String Quartet were guest artists, providing shapely and responsive playing in all three of the wind works with strings. The players are all from the MSO: Ilana Setapen (violin), Margot Schwartz (violin), Wei-Ting Kuo (viola) and Peter Thomas (cello). Violist Jenny Kozoroz joined the ensemble for the Mozart quintet. Arcas plays with youthful vigor. This quartet has recently emerged on the scene. Each time I hear them (not often enough), my interest is piqued, and I want to hear more of what this ensemble can do.
While the component pieces of the program were well played, the overall arch felt a bit off. Perhaps if something brief and exuberant had followed the contemplative conclusion of the Brahms quintet, the concert would have felt more rounded and balanced.