The Phenix Ensemble, Juilliard grads from many years back, gave the opening concert for the 50th season of the Sheldon Friends of Chamber Music Saturday at the Sheldon Museum of Art.
There’s a familiar face in this group: Anton Miller, the Lincoln’s Symphony Orchestra concertmaster, is a Phenix violinist. Other members are violist Rita Porfiris, cellist Edward Arron and pianist Jeewon Park. Bassist Hans Sturm, on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Glenn Korff School of Music, joined for the famous “Trout” Quintet of Franz Schubert.
The quartet played the Antonin Dvorak “Piano Quartet in D Major, Opus 23”, and Libby Larsen’s “Black Birds, Black Hills” work arranged for violin, viola and piano, then the “Trout” quintet after intermission.
Larsen’s work is based on paintings by Georgia O’Keefe, and slides of the paintings were shown. Miller and Porfiris weaved the melodies well as Park provided both glue and at times excellent melodies in molding the work.
Dvorak’s Piano Quartet is more familiar territory. The Phenix Ensemble was energetic and demonstrative in laying-out Dvorak’s notes for the 180 patrons in the gallery auditorium. Miller rendered a tender melody at the beginning of the second movement. Park’s piano contributions were both soloistic and glue, exhibiting well her diverse keyboard talent.
But it was the “Trout” Quintet that the crowd was anticipating. The sonority of the bass adds much to the texture of this work. The enthusiastic ensemble took a few measures to get the tempo settled in, but it came fairly quickly.
The Scherzo was well assembled. Miller’s steady violin and Porfiris’ viola kept this work together well, especially in the tuneful second section.
The last movement was the clincher for patrons. Notes flew by with players offering a high degree of unity in bringing this war-horse across the finish line as a celebrated winner.