The penultimate concert of this year’s Port City Music Festival was a performance by its emerging artists. Now concluding its 11th Wilmington season, the festival is a week-long series of fine chamber concerts held annually in early June. Performances take place at various locations around town such as Beckwith Recital Hall at UNCW and First Presbyterian Church. A remarkable quality of the festival is that all of its concerts are free to the public. This is an exceptional offering to Wilmington audiences and another example of the richness of the city’s cultural scene.

In 2018 the festival inaugurated its Emerging Artists program. This is an intensive chamber music workshop for college students. They are assigned music to learn shortly before the program and then spend a concentrated week practicing, rehearsing, and coaching these works in Wilmington with the festival artists. At the end of that time they are showcased in a public concert. This year’s concert was held at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. It showed how successful the workshop is and how talented are the young artists who participated. [Full disclosure: one of them is a student of this writer.]

The program, very generous in length, included a dozen works, all but one of them trios or quartets. It has to be fairly acknowledged that even with this level of talent, a few days of rehearsals don’t necessarily bring performances to full artist levels, but many impressed the listener both with their quality and with the musicianship and passion of the players.

One example was the Piano Trio by Jennifer Higdon, one of today’s leading American composers and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize. This one-movement work was given a gentle, lyrical performance by Dhara Márquez, violin, Guilia Bratosin, cello, and Aleksandra Velgosha, piano. Their tonal sensitivity made a definite impression, even as the central climax could have built to a higher peak.

The Scherzo from Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E-flat brought the first appearance of pianist Michael Patterson, who was impressive both here and later. He played with technical aplomb and obvious musical conviction. The performance as a whole had electricity and excitement in the kinetic outer sections. There were good expressive swells in the strings.

The first half ended with the first movement of the Piano Trio No. 1 by Johannes Brahms. This is one of the most difficult works in the entire chamber literature, and its first movement is the largest of the four. Impressive is the word which comes to mind again to describe this performance by Karina Beebe, violin, Andre Darvasan-Stanciu, cello, and Beatrice Serban, piano. One could feel the passion almost immediately; fire mixed with lyricism as the movement unfolded in a performance which already presented palpable artistry. All three are fine musicians, but special note should go to Serban for her command of the formidable technical challenges of this movement.

The slow movement of Beethoven’s famous “Archduke” trio opened the second half. This brought forth sustained lyricism from Sofya-Albina Puyul, violin, Guilia Bratosin, cello, with another strong performance by pianist Serban. The extended movement had fine atmosphere and expressive beauties.

The following “Légende,” by Georges Enescu, was the single duo on the program. Trumpeter Abner Márquez has a big, projective sound which commands the listener’s attention. He is an immediate and compelling presence. He has good softs too; one wondered whether he ought to spend more time in that dynamic range, rather than turning to his big sound as quickly as he did. His partner was Luis Barragán, piano, who gave the piece a lovely opening tone and sensitivity throughout.

All of the following substantial movements by Turina, Fauré, and Dvořák were very well done. Even with that, the ending performance, of the first movement of Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 was a standout. The piece seethes with dark passion, contrasted with long-lined lyricism. It also has one of the most difficult piano parts of any chamber work. Patterson handled the virtuoso part expertly and with expressive command. Beebe and Bratosin matched him in drama and conviction.

Bios of the festival’s principal artists may be read here.

For information on remaining event, click here.