HARRISON — The Sebago-Long Lake Music Festival, which opened its 45th season on Tuesday evening at the Deertrees Theatre, has qualities in common with several of the area’s other summer festivals: It attracts wind and string players from orchestras around the country and presents them in ensembles with Maine musicians, including Portland Symphony players. And it presents inventive programs that go a long way toward making up for the relative scarcity of mixed-timbre chamber concerts here in the winter.

An interesting difference is that, where musicians elsewhere adhere to the current fascination with supercharged, obsessively polished performances – something recordings have conditioned us to expect, the players here take a more relaxed, laid-back approach.

That is not to imply that the performances were slapdash. They were not. The works by Mozart, Arvo Pärt and Fauré on this “Inspiring Mozart” program were, generally speaking, thoughtfully conceived and elegantly executed. But there was also a low-key, thoroughly human quality that was refreshingly distinct from the standard mold.

Whether this approach is being actively cultivated by pianist Mihae Lee, the festival’s director, or is simply an anomaly that will vanish as the players take the stage in different combinations, remains to be seen. But it was immediately apparent in Mozart’s Trio in E flat major for Clarinet, Viola and Piano (K. 498), the concert’s opening work, and it prevailed through the evening.

Clarinetist Carmelo Galante, violist Gerry Itzkoff and pianist Stephen Manes moved gracefully through the work’s three movements, producing a warm ensemble sound as well as nicely turned individual lines and phrases. Mostly, though, they restored the piece to its 18th-century roots – as a diversion for friends to play at home, in those pre-electricity days when, if you wanted to hear music, you had to play it yourself.

The program’s theme was Mozart as a source of inspiration for later composers, and to that end, Itzkoff (switching to violin) and Manes were joined by cellist Mihai Marica for Pärt’s “Mozart-Adagio” (1992), a quiet rumination on the slow movement from Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F major (K. 280).

This is a piece that exists simultaneously in two musical universes. The contours and harmonies of the Mozart original are largely intact. But Pärt, an Estonian who is sometimes spoken of as a Minimalist (thanks mostly to repetitively hypnotic works like “Tabula Rasa”) and sometimes as a quasi-mystic (because of his deeply meditative settings of Christian texts), reframes our view of it by redistributing its lines among the trio and by adding distinctively modern touches, as well as an original introduction and finale.

All these tweaks function as a sort of deconstruction and commentary, and the ensemble presented them in the calm, introspective spirit that Pärt brought to the project.

The program’s first half ended with another Mozart work, the Quintet in E flat major for Horn and Strings (K. 407). John Boden, who retired as the Portland Symphony’s principal hornist this past season, took the solo line, and for the most part – particularly in the exposed opening sections of the first and last movements – played it with precision and a richly rounded tone.

Elsewhere, there were intonational mishaps of the kind that so often plague hornists – it’s a ridiculously perilous instrument – but the work’s essence came through intact. Boden was deftly supported by Itzkoff and Marica, as well as violinist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu and Laurie Kennedy, the principal violist of the Portland Symphony (and Lee’s predecessor as director of this festival).

The second half of the program with devoted to Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor (Op. 15), with Lee at the piano and Wu, Kennedy and Marica rounding out the ensemble. It wasn’t entirely clear how Fauré fit into the program’s theme, other than that virtually all composers after Mozart were inspired by him, one way or another. Lee played Fauré’s piano music with sparkling clarity, and the ensemble as a whole painted Fauré’s opulent, Gallic themes in warm hues, and with a healthy measure of late 19th-century steaminess.

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

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