The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth kicked off its new year Saturday afternoon with a hefty program that just about filled the auditorium of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Concertgoers were rewarded with a varied and vivid performance that was well off the beaten path, even if it included music by very well-known composers.
The instruments involved included two violins, a viola, a cello and a double bass — or in other words, a string quartet plus a bass. They split up into smaller ensembles: a duo for two violins; a string trio for violin, viola and cello; a duo for violin and viola; and, finally, a string quintet involving everybody.
A special guest was Eugene Levinson, the father of the society’s artistic director, Gary Levinson. The elder Levinson is the recently retired principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic.
The concert opened auspiciously with a sonata for two violins by Jean-Marie Leclair, a younger contemporary of J.S. Bach. Playing were the younger Levinson and Felix Olschofka, a faculty member at the University of North Texas. They made an excellent co-equal team in a performance highlighted by a lovely sarabande contrasted with a lively final allegro.
Judging by this piece, Leclair was a master of melody.
Next came Beethoven, though not Beethoven at his most familiar. This was his string trio, Opus 9, No. 2. Performing were Gary Levinson on violin, violist Michael Klotz and cellist Carter Enyeart. Klotz is an artist-in-residence at the Florida International University School of Music. Enyeart, who is on the faculty of the conservatory of the University of Missouri-Kansas City, is a former longtime regular with the Fort Worth society.
The three gave a precise, vivid performance of the Beethoven highlighted by a moving slow movement that seemed far more mature than one would expect from the youthful composer. Especially remarkable was the superb playing of Klotz, whose viola was a joy to hear throughout the afternoon.
A John August Halvorsen tribute to Handel in the form of a duo for violin and viola was a pleasant pre-intermission treat, with Klotz joined by Gary Levinson.
Everybody came onstage for Dvorak’s string quintet, Opus 77. Eugene Levinson’s bass added depth to a joyous performance filled with great tunes (Dvorak couldn’t produce less) and lively dance rhythms. Gary Levinson’s lovely violin in the slow movement was a notable asset.