During a concert at the Coastal Maine Botannical Gardens in Boothbay, “sounds and perfumes turn in the air,” to paraphrase Debussy.

That was certainly true Friday night, when the DaPonte String Quartet was joined by guest artists Maria Bachman, violin, and Jon Klibonoff, piano. Even the acoustics in the great hall seemed better than I remembered.

There can’t be a better piece of music for a late summer garden than Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major (K. 301), graceful, melodic, lush and delicate by turns. It was given a near-perfect performance by Bachman and Klibonoff, whose rapport was so close that it often seemed as if the sonata were played on one instrument.

Poison ivy, a shiny,  beautiful and toxic plant that thrives in spite of everything, was exemplified by the Shostakovich Quintet for Piano and Strings (Op. 57). That this sardonic, subversive, mocking and gorgeous work ever got nominated for the Stalin Prize, in 1940, is a tribute to the thick-headedness of Communist music critics.

To be fair, however, one of them complained directly to Stalin about “stilted, singular new sounds resulting from abstract formal quests.

And how little there is of genuine beauty and strength, emanating from an awareness of genuine life, from the realization in music of great human feelings…This is music that does not connect with the life of the people.”

All quite true – the rude snores of the cello after the nervous but heavily textured opening of the scherzo should have been a dead give-away – but the quintet rapidly became and remains one of the most popular of Shostakovich’s chamber works.

The entire piece, with its abrupt mood swings, a characteristic “valse macabre,”  a wistful Bachian fugue, and a march of the animals that sounds like Mahler, was given an authentic and gloriously textured performance, as if Shostakovich sat at the piano.

After intermission came an equally well-played rendition of the Concerto for Piano, Violin and String Quartet (Op. 21) by Ernest Chausson (1855-1899). Unfortunately, the score didn’t replay the musicians’ devotion. It is well written, cleverly developed … and empty. Its emotions run the gamut from “y” to “z,” always at full intensity, which gets wearing after five minutes.

Chausson’s work makes me think of Schoenberg, who developed his new system of composition in the belief that traditional musical styles, especially overblown late Romanticism, had nothing further to offer.

The capacity audience gave it a standing ovation.

The DaPonte String Quartet and guest artists will continue the “Music in the Gardens” Festival today and Tuesday.

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

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.