Sunday’s Winter Classics concert was a showcase for American and Russian music – with a couple of French pieces thrown in for good measure.

The first half focused solidly on flutist Laurel Ann Maurer. One of today’s preeminent flutists, the concert gave Maurer the opportunity of exhibiting both her impressive technique as well as her remarkable musicality.

This section of the concert opened and closed with works by American composer David Gunn. Gunn writes tonal but sophisticated music that is infused with wit and a finely honed sense of rhythm. The music is tricky to pull off, but when it is done well, as it was Sunday, then the result is wonderfully entertaining and gratifying.

“The Giant Pecking Sparrows,” for flute and clarinet, the first of the two pieces by Gunn that were played, interweaves the two instruments in some intricately carved phrasings. Maurer and clarinetist Russell Harlow played it with lyricism and fluid lines that captured the sunny lightness of the music.

The other piece, “Euphonicum Tangenturis,” was written for Maurer and Harlow who, together with pianist Bryan Stanley, gave the world premiere Sunday. The work is more densely textured than the other piece, yet it isn’t heavy even though the three instruments play together almost incessantly. There is a luminous melodicism that runs throughout the work, along with some nicely shaped rhythmic twists that energize it. The three musicians gave a wonderfully crafted account that captured the subtleties and nuances of the score. Their playing was fluid and cohesive.

Maurer was also featured in a piece for solo flute by Arthur Honegger, “Danse de la Chevre.” A captivating piece, Maurer’s playing was expressive and captured the simple straightforward melodicism of this short work.

Rounding out the first half was the “Carmen Fantasy” for flute, clarinet and piano by clarinetist and Rice University faculty member Michael Webster. All of the well known tunes from Georges Bizet’s opera are contained in this showpiece, and the three gave a fabulously virtuosic account that didn’t miss a thing.

The second half of the program was an all-Russian affair. It opened with two pieces for clarinet and string quartet: Alexander Glazunov’s “Oriental Reverie” and Sergei Taneyev’s “Canzona,” played by Harlow and violinists Alexander Woods and Rebecca Moench; violist Leslie Harlow; and cellist Julie Bevan. The two pieces complement each other and both were played with polish, finely crafted lyricism and subtle expressiveness.

The concert ended with Glazunov’s String Quartet in G major, op. 26, no. 3. The musicians gave a compelling account that captured the soaring lyricism and nuances of the music. It was an engaging and very eloquent performance. Glazunov is a rather neglected composer today, and it’s performances such as this one that makes one want to hear more of his music in the concert hall.

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