Superb ensemble playing and musicality are the hallmarks of Ronen Chamber Ensemble programs. That said, with England, the Musical Hub, soloist and chamber music pianist Gregory Martin went one step further in sharing the back story to each composition.
Drama at the center of each work afforded a unity to the program. Equally, the works presented were seminal to the careers of the composers, so we could perceive growth arcs shaping each composer's career.
In developing the program with Ronen artistic directors David Bellman and Ingrid Fischer-Bellman, Martin made music history pleasurable on a bitter cold night. No one was sorry for making the effort to attend.
Bloomington North High School cellist Bryan Park made his Ronen debut as the 2014 side-by-side participant winner, playing with poise alongside cellist Fischer-Bellman and Martin. Attention to tone and pacing were evident throughout the four movements of Sonata in G Minor for Two Cellos and Piano (transcribed from Trio Sonata, Op. 2, No. 8 by H. Beyer).
David Bellman delivered expected mystic beauty in a clarinet's tour of the hills of Western Wales, playing in the company of violinists Areta Zhulla and Jayna Park, violist Nancy Agres and cellist Fisher-Bellman on H. Howell's Rhapsodic Quintet, Op. 31.
Zhulla's touching Salut d'Amour, Op. 12 gave immediacy to Elgar's expressive love poem taking it above sentiment to enduring vows. With La Capriceuse, Op. 17, Zhulla's bow danced over the strings with humor and grace building momentum with bold and flirty rhythmic perception. Martin's piano accompaniment fit perfectly.
With an atmospheric interpretation of Vaughn Williams' Silent Moon, vocalist Zach Cardwell segued the program to Piano Quintet in C Minor (1903), Williams' breakthrough composition in which he skirted the song's melody into the third movement.
Martin's assured treatment brought intuitive maturity to the gamut of the Quintet's emotions, leading and giving way to featured moments for the strings to express their views. Ably joining Zhulla and Fischer-Bellman were violist Mike Chen and bassist L. Bennett Crantford.
Ronen Chamber Ensemble closes its 30th anniversary season April 17.