VentiCordi, literally “wind strings,” is celebrating its third season this year. Founded by violinist Dean Stein and oboist Kathleen McNerney, it explores chamber music written for any combination of wind and stringed instruments, a literature that is voluminous but seldom heard on the concert stage. 

Its final program of the season, Thursday at South Congregational Church in Kennebunkport, was typical, including a fascinating selection of works from baroque to contemporary, well performed by the founders and noted guest artists, including Pamela Mia Paul, piano, Erin Lesser, flute, Mark Simons, clarinet, and Jennifer Combs, cello.

The program opened with a delightful piece by Madeline Dring (1923-77), a Trio for Flute, Oboe and Piano with jagged but cheerful rhythms, a soulful andante, and a flair for combining and contrasting instrumental textures. As the program notes point out, it sounded rather like a combination of the classical Gershwin and Francis Poulenc.

My favorite of the evening was the only piece I had heard before, a raucous “Contrasts” for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, by Bela Bartok commissioned by Benny Goodman in 1938, and still full of surprises.

It opens with Verrbunkos, a dance on the occasion of young men being recruited for the military. It begins appropriately with a march, which is then deconstructed into a taste of what the recruits are actually signing up for. The concluding movement, Sebes, is a fast dance, introduced by a drunken peasant, portrayed by an out-of-tune violin. It offers all sorts of wonders, including what seems to be a barking dog. Simons did an amazing job with the showy clarinet part.

Another gem was Choros No. 2 for Flute and Clarinet by Heitor Villa-Lobos, based on a form of Brazilian street music. The complex rhythms and unusual counterpoint between the two voices showed Villa-Lobos at his best.

A baroque Trio Sonata for Flute and Oboe with Cello by composer and flute-maker to Frederick the Great, Johann Joachim Quantz, contrasted nicely with the Brazilian. If Frederick could manage the flute part of that trio, it’s no wonder that his father had him beaten for playing too well.

The program concluded with a Quartet for Piano, Oboe, Violin and Cello (H.315) by Bohuslav Martin, one of those neoclassical works, like Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony,” that employs all of the techniques of a bygone era yet sounds distinctly “modern.”

One hopes that VentiCordi can continue to mine its musical treasure-trove for a long time to come.

Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at:

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