Some magnificently sung Hugo Wolf songs and a top-notch Camille Saint-Saëns composition highlighted Friday night’s third program of the 2019 Cactus Pear Music Festival concert at Trinity Baptist Church.
The program, titled “Goethe Have Music,” also presented music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Maurice Ravel for an audience of 325 people.
Bass-baritone Timothy Jones, a longtime festival favorite from Houston, sang seven Wolf songs set to late 1800s poetry by Eduard Möricke and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
As in the past, Jones’ magnetic, smiling stage presence boosted his pure baritone. His academic excellence joined with his stylish expressiveness and graceful, dramatic hand gestures to tell the stories within the poems. With accompaniment by pianist Jeffrey Sykes, the moods ranged from wistful and amazement to mischief and joy for poems that unfolded scenes such as of a gardener admiring a princess, of a hunter frustrated with his love life and of a predawn dream of a magical songbird. It all added up to much more than a lieder recital.
The ensemble showpiece of the program was Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet No. 2, performed by pianist Scott Cuellar, violinist Ellen dePasquale, violist Bruce Williams and cellist Jonah Kim.
The opening theme flowed like a stream in its French elegance. The second movement issued contrapuntal contrast between the piano and the three strings, leading to the third movement’s vigorous, plucky theme. The themes were reprised in the harrowing finale, all performed brilliantly by the quartet.
Cuellar and Sykes opened the concert with one of those irrepressible piano pieces composed by Mozart when he was teen — the Sonata, K. 381, for four hands. The duo raced with precision through the outer movements that galloped with delight. The relaxed middle section was delivered with aplomb. The players admirably stayed out of each other’s way in the middle of the Steinway keyboard.
New York-based violinist dePasquale then teamed with California cellist Kim for Ravel’s Sonata for Violin & Cello. It might have been a surprise for some in the audience, being forward-looking for a 1922 piece and less harmonious than Ravel’s norm. DePasquale and Kim blended their own lines despite hardly any unity. They achieved a balance and a sense of conversation, especially in the slow, penultimate movement that provided some emotional gravity.
The “Goethe Have Music” program repeats at 7 p.m. Sunday, July at Boerne’s First United Methodist Church.
The festival’s fourth program, “Romancing the Notes,” will be performed at 7 p.m. Saturday at San Antonio’s Trinity Baptist Church.