Sunday's Maia Quartet performance for the Sheldon Friends of Chamber Music was for the birds.

Well, not exactly. About 275 in the Sheldon's Abbott Auditorium heard the "Bird Sanctuary" quintet of Luigi Boccherini and Haydn's "Lark" String Quartet.

The non-avian selection was Johannes Brahms' "String Sextet in G Major."

Cellist Daniel Levitov, a former Lincolnite who studied with Carol Work and Tracy Hanson Sands, joined the ensemble for Boccherini and Brahms. Baltimore Symphony violist Karin Brown added her talents for the Brahms Sextet.

It took the ensemble a few measures to get started on Boccherini. Lots of trills and bird sounds filled the first movement.

Many key changes in movement two meant group communication was job one. All proceeded well through this chase, dubbed "Shepherds and Hunters" by Boccherini.

The bird calls returned in the final movement. Good job done, but the crowd's praise seemed tentative.

Better audience approval came for the well-known "Lark" Quartet. The praise was deserved by violinists Tricia Park and Elizabeth Suh Lane, who were perfect in quipping the "lark" in high violin registers.

Of greater significance was the quartet's unity during the "Lark" Finale. This section requires players to imitate the first violinist. Perfection earned the quartet strong audience praise.

Levitov and Brown joined forces for Brahms.

Quietly alluring and sweetly played, the Brahms first movement theme flowed like melting chocolate from Hannah Holman's cello. Other players smiled about this and joined with Holman to make a precious opening statement.

It was Holman again in the Scherzo movement who drove the exciting changes in mood and tempo, bringing smiles to patron faces.

A steady, even-tempered emotional drive saturated the final two movements to achieve confidence in bringing this favorite to a masterful conclusion.

For the birds? Hardly! Kudos to all six performers for an excellent Sheldon Friends' season start.

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