Times Music Writer

Nothing startling, novel or kinky marked the program played by the Muir Quartet and Carol Wincenc, third event in the chamber music series at Ambassador Auditorium Tuesday night. In fact, two of the works were repeats from earlier visits here by these musicians.

Yet this performance found a high plateau of achievement, gave consistent pleasure and committed no gaucheries.

And the youngish players--violinists Lucy Stoltzman (newest Muir member, who joined the group a year ago) and Bayla Keyes, violist Steven Ansell, cellist Michael Reynolds and flutist Wincenc--invested the event with uncommon energy and a sense of discovery. The only jarring note was a visual one: the glitzy shoes worn by the two violinists.

As guest of the quartet, Wincenc tended to dominate the performance by her presence in four of the five works. But she gave as much as she took, became a part of every ensemble and contributed thoughtful and colorful playing throughout.

In Villa-Lobos' "Assobio a Jato," Wincenc's contributions included brilliant but effortless virtuosity, as well. Here, her palpable rapport with cellist Reynolds formed a solid musical subtext, adding a remarkable dimension to the performance.

She did the same with her colleagues in Beethoven's rarely heard, but joyful, Serenade, Opus 25, wherein they were violinist Keyes and violist Ansell. And in Mozart's more familiar, but no less cherishable, Quartet in D, K. 285, with Stoltzman, Ansell and Reynolds.

But, for lush tone and gorgeous understatement, Wincenc reached her peak in the solo line of Debussy's "Syrinx."

In the middle of this generous but not overburdened program, the Muir Quartet by itself gave as bold, pointed and unflappable a reading of Bartok's Quartet No. 5 as one may be lucky enough to hear anywhere. It was a reading of deep feelings, strong humor, an optimistic perspective and a minimum of self-consciousness.

One wonders what new insights this reconstituted ensemble might bring to Bartok's other works in the genre.

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