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Wednesday, July 28, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Concert Review

Pianist Anton Nel is sparkling, assured

Seattle Times music critic

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Seattle Chamber Music Society's Summer Festival, 7 p.m. recital, 8 p.m. concert tonight and Friday, Lakeside School, 14050 First Ave. N.E., Seattle; $16-$35 (206-283-8808 or www.scmf.org). If sold out, wait list begins at 6:30 p.m. on-site on concert nights. Outdoor lawn seating is free and always available.

Once again, it was standing room only at the Seattle Chamber Music Society's pre-concert recital Monday evening, with eager patrons lined up along the side walls and the rear of Lakeside's little McKay Chapel. This time, they came to hear pianist Anton Nel, one of the festival's most popular and reliably excellent artists, in a sparkling, mercurial traversal of some Beethoven.

Nel chose the witty "Five Variations on 'Rule Britannia,' " and the Rondo in G Major (Op. 51, No. 2), both of them comparative rarities on today's concert stage. Considerably more familiar was the "Les Adieux" Sonata (Op. 81a), given an assured performance full of drama and contrast.

Nel also was in fine form during the main-event concert that followed, playing the Mendelssohn C Minor Piano Trio with violinist Kyung Sun Lee and cellist Anthony Elliott. The ensemble was sometimes a bit uneasy, but Nel was the musical glue that held everything together — especially in the turbulent arpeggios of the opening movement and the fast, fleet perpetual-motion scherzo. It was an assertive performance that served this score well.

The first half of the program was French: André Jolivet's "Petite Suite" for Flute, Violin and Harp, and Ernest Chausson's Piano Quartet, Op. 30. Neither of these is probably going to make the "World's Greatest Chamber Music of All Time" list, but both works have their advantages, especially in Monday's well-characterized performances. In the Jolivet, the players were Lorna McGhee (flute), Heidi Krutzen (harp) and David Harding (viola); Harding's viola was sonorous but a bit less flexible than the other players. The total effect, however, was charming, especially in the jiglike finale, with McGhee shifting to the piccolo for lots of speedy fingerwork.

The Chausson quartet brought together violinist Erika Raum, violist Geraldine Walther, and cellist Bion Tsang — string players noted for their beauty of tone — with pianist Max Levinson. Walther's opening of the second movement was particularly lovely. Balances in the ensemble were good; the performance was impassioned and convincing.

It's the last week of the festival, whose organizers are doing a good job of shoehorning in the hopeful souls on the wait list at the last moment. Only two more chances remain to hear the music on these rare, warm summer evenings.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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