Ordinarily, I would never think of being out on Sunday nights during "Downton Abbey" season, but I made an exception last weekend in order to catch an appealing program on the Chamber Music by Candlelight series at Second Presbyterian Church. (Of course, I didn't miss "Downton." That's what DVRs are for.)
The distinctive thing about the chamber series is that it features members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (and their friends) in highly diverse programs. The other notable aspect: The concerts are free.
Although BSO players don't have a lot of extra time for chamber music on the side, you wouldn't guess that from the level of music-making on Sunday's Candlelight presentation. There was consistent technical polish, along with a good deal of expressive phrasing.
Beethoven's C major String Quartet, Op. 59, No. 3, received a tight, dynamic performance from violinists Rebecca Nichols and Greg Mulligan, violist Noah Chaves, and cellist Kristin Ostling (she made every insistent pizzicato count in the proto-Schubertian second movement). The perpetual motion finale, one of Beethoven's giddiest, coolest creations, found the musicians digging in with great gusto.
Alan Hovhaness, whose prolific output includes more than five dozen symphonies and hundreds of other compositions, gets woefully little attention these days. Come to think of it, that's probably always been the case. So I was pleased to find a work for flute and harp, "The Garden of Adonis," on this program. This study in gentle melodic curves and subtle coloring was stylishly delivered by flutist Marcia Kamper and harpist Sarah Fuller.
The concert closed with Mendelssohn's urgent D minor Piano Trio. Although I would have welcomed greater dynamic contrasts from pianist Andrea Sokol, her vivid contributions provided a solid foundation in a peformance that also had going for it the elegant playing of violinist Madeline Adkins, along with impassioned phrases and a burnished tone from cellist Seth Low.