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Harvard's Sanders Theater has an ambiance which suits it perfectly to the performance of 19th century chamber music. The building has an austere, cloaked atmosphere; its mahogany wall carvings tell a story, as did the compositions by Doppler, Dvorak and Mendelssohn performed there Sunday.

Doppler's Andante and Rhondo for two flutes and piano, Op. 25, led the program. The music had a lightness which divided it from the other works in the performance. Paula Robison and Fenwick Smith played the flute parts with a joyous vigor that did justice to the chipper tone of the piece. Charles Wadsworth, artistic director for the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, played the piano part with zest.

Wadsworth, introduced as "Mr. Chamber Music," said that although this piece lacks the musical depth typical of the period, performers had to resist the urge to "dabble in Doppler." Indeed, in the lively Rondo, it was clear that the musicians enjoyed the music, a critical aspect of live music which should never be neglected. The piece ended with a wild and winding cadenza, a fine stepping stone for the more passionate works to follow.

Violinist Lynn Chan fueled an effort of elevated musicianship in a performance of Dvorak's Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81, which saw players fusing with their instruments to give a heightened musical awareness.

The Allegro was a movement of transitions, startling and subtle in their design. Although only five musicians were on the stage, the dynamic variety generated was at times almost that of an orchestra. The Andante con moto (Dumka) gave a melancholy pause to the piece only to be interrupted by the Scherzo (Furiant).

The Finale (Allegro) re-invoked the cello motif which was strong in the first movement. Ronald Thomas' cello pizzicatos embodied images from the previous three movements. The Finale eventually exploded in a victorious recovery following a misleading piano. Violinist James Buswell, violist Walter Trampler and pianist Christopher O'Riley all made splendid contributions to this piece.

Wadsworth said "Only Mozart showed the same kind of musical genius as Mendelssohn at a very young age." The Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20, was written by Mendelssohn when he was only 16. The piece has a magical fire that will not let you turn away once it has captured your gaze.

The Allegro ma con fuoco attracted attention with an abrasive introduction, while the Andante made a mournful, dirge-like impression with pinches of dynamic and melodic diversity. The Scherzo (Allegro leggierissimo) and Presto movements build, destroy and rebuild themes leading to a dramatic and inspiring end. The Octet is one of Mendelssohn's most powerful works and was written to stir rather than delight.

Violinists James Buswell, Lynn Chang, Vyacheslav Uritsky and Daniel Phillips, violists Walter Trampler and Marcus Thompson, associate professor of Music at MIT, and cellists Leslie Parnas and Ronald Thomas received a standing ovation for their intense performance of this work. Hear it if you possibly can.

Ben Stanger->