The Musicians From Marlboro heralded spring Wednesday night at the Freer Gallery of Art, offering a Viennese bouquet to conclude the Bill and Mary Meyer Concert Series.
Violinists David McCarroll and Itamar Zorman, violist Hélène Clément and cellist Peter Wiley were joined by French horn players Wei-Ping Chou and Patrick Pridemore in an ebullient performance of Beethoven’s Sextet in E-flat, Op. 81b. In this work of buoyant high spirits, leavened with Beethoven’s occasionally rustic humor, it is tempting to overstate the punchlines. But here nothing was overplayed. Subtle articulation, hand-in-glove ensemble and artful interplay between horns and strings created a sunny, irresistible cheerfulness.
The concert closed with delightful party music at its 18th-century best. Oboist Mary Lynch and double bassist Tony Flynt joined the ensemble in the charmingly lighthearted Mozart Divertimento, K. 251. Like many young violinists, Zorman and McCarroll, for all their superlative musicianship and beautiful sound, tend to play very loudly. Lynch proved herself equal to the challenge, her sweet oboe sound floating serenely above all.
Between these two youthful works of Beethoven and Mozart was nestled a deeply serious work from Brahms’s early 40s. McCarroll, Zorman, Clément and Wiley delivered a passionate String Quartet in C Minor, Op. 51, maintaining an intensity from the first note to last. An urgency verging on desperation characterized the opening Allegro, which made the following slow movement, with its whispered intimacy and delicate gestures, a palpable relief. Here Wiley revealed himself the senior partner of the evening, with his judicious pacing and beautifully sung cello solos. Meanwhile, Clément’s exquisite viola playing was luminous throughout.