by Kevin McLaughlin
After the seriousness and communal pall brought on by the COVID pandemic, this year’s ChamberFest is asserting “Lightness of Being” as a theme, inspired by Milan Kundera’s 1984 novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being. In the second concert of the Festival, titled “Karenin’s Smile,” works by Mozart, Janáček, and Saint-Saëns were appropriately buoyant and cheerful, thrilling those gathered at Cleveland’s St. Wendelin Church on June 16.
Mozart wrote two of his six so-called “viola quintets” in 1787 in close succession — one in C major, one in G minor. The C major, with its more amiable and optimistic disposition, was a fitting choice on Friday evening.
Cellist Jonathan Swensen opened with a puckish rising arpeggiated triad, which first violinist David Bowlin answered with equally cheeky delight. The wide-ranging motive hinted at the movement’s dimensions (a good fifteen minutes long), and the violin answer set the bantering pattern. Bowlin made a fine leader, acquitting himself in both Allegro movements with mirthful virtuosity.