BEETHOVEN FESTIVAL PARK CITY, Park City Community Church, July 24; festival runs through Aug. 11, tickets available at the door or at www.beethovenfestivalparkcity.org
This week, the featured guest artist at the Beethoven Festival Park City is violinist Manuel Ramos. A long time member of the festival’s roster, Ramos’ innate musicality and remarkable technical acumen, along with the rich, velvety tone of his instrument, are always a welcome addition to the many exceptional performers who play at this annual event.
At Thursday’s concert Ramos opened with a set of four pieces for violin and piano accompanied by University of Utah pianist Pamela Jones. Among the selections were a soulful rendition of Manuel Ponce’s Estrellita and a flashy account of Agustín Lara’s Granada.
Before intermission, Ramos and Jones were joined by clarinetist Russell Harlow and Utah Valley University cellist Cheung Chau in Federico Ibarra’s El Viaje Imaginaro (Imaginary Voyage). Written in 1994 the piece opens with a two-note fragment that is explored in some depth. It gradually evolves into something more intense and complex, before moving back to more tranquil musical thoughts. It gives one the sense of movement while remaining stationary.
The four gave a compelling account that brought cohesiveness to the work. It was articulate and well executed, and they brought out the nuances in tone, tempos and dynamics that are obviously crucial to the success of this piece.
After intermission, violist Leslie Harlow and Brigham Young University violinist Monte Belknap joined Ramos and Chau for a splendid reading of Beethoven’s Quartet in F major, op. 18, no. 6. The four exhibited marvelous ensemble play; they’re a well matched quartet with a keen sense of interpretation. Their playing was insightful and brought clearly defined depth and a sense of purpose to the work. It’s a tricky piece, to be sure, because there is more to it than one expects from an early Beethoven quartet, but the four brought out the score’s subtleties of rhythm and articulation with their refined and polished performance.