Unbound Chamber Music Festival goes over the top

Exhilarated and depressed. At the same time.

The best chamber music festival ever in Mammoth Lakes, Calif., recently concluded. Thus the depression. As summer festivals go, this one is way too short, but it has taken its place in the culture of festivals in the classical music field.

The 2014 Unbound Chamber Music Festival was stellar. In every way. The musicians brought together by the Felici Trio were an ecstatic group of musical individuals. Ron Selka played the clarinet as if he were at sea level. Selka has chops. He’s the principal clarinet of the Israel Philharmonic. Violist Amadi Azikiwe, music director of the Harlem Symphony Orchestra, looks more like a basketball player than a violist, but his fingers fly over the strings. Guillaume Sutre’s mastery on the violin enchants as you watch and become entangled in the fine web of music he weaves.

Those are just a few of the guest artists, who join a more or less regular cast of musical characters. Mark Kosower’s cello playing has such amazing heart. Each note registers in his facial expressions as much as the exquisite tone of his cello.

And the music. It did not matter whether a piece was familiar or new, the musicianship was impeccable. From the violinistic fireworks of festival favorite Corey Cerovsek to eight cellos taking the stage for Villa-Lobos, or the aptly titled “A Perfect Storm” concert that took place on a rainy night in the mountains, or for the phenomenal finale that went from fantastic to out of this world with performances of Schubert’s “unfinished” string quartet, Brahms’s heavenly cello sonata performed with passion and perfection by husband and wife musicians Mark Kosower and Jee-Won Oh, and finally the Mendelssohn piano sextet in which Felici Trio pianist Steven Vanhauwaert’s virtuosic playing brought the audience to its ecstatic, appreciative feet.

I slight none of the musicians here. There is just not the time to paint thumbnail portraits of each of them, which does not diminish the joy at hearing them play.

Perhaps the greatest surprise with summer festivals is the magic. As if the small amount of rehearsal time is inversely proportionate to the power and beauty of the music performed.