One of the most reliably creative chamber groups around, Chameleon Arts Ensemble marked the close of its 10th season with an anniversary concert dedicated to that round number. Two of the works shared Opus 10 designations, and the rest featured at least some decimal reference.
Three instruments - Joanna Kurkowicz's violin, Scott Woolweaver's viola, and Rafael Popper-Keizer's cello - made a surprisingly big sound in Ernst von Dohnányi's Op. 10 Serenade, low and open strings creating a folk-tinged Romanticism, a village band essaying Brahms; the players brought appropriate rustic vigor, but also smoothly varnished their dark sound for a melancholy series of variations. Four songs from Richard Strauss's Op. 10 followed (including the familiar "Zueignung" and "Allerseelen"), in which pianist Vivian Chang-Freiheit produced a noble, polished-marble sound, but soprano Sabrina Learman undermined her own resonance and intonation by seemingly hoarding her breath, rather then spending it with Straussian extravagance.
Five different winds hardly make a homogeneous ensemble, but Carl Nielsen made that a virtue in his 1922 Wind Quintet (Op. 43, but 100th in the Fog-Schousboe catalog of his works), granting all five instruments their own mercurial individuality. Six, actually - oboist Nancy Dimock, doubling on English horn, joined flutist Deborah Boldin (also the group's artistic director), clarinetist Gary Gorczyca, bassoonist Margaret Phillips, and hornist Whitacre Hill in a casually confident performance, a diverting procession of varied hues and textures.
Seven is an important number in Kevin Puts's vibrant "Ritual Protocol" (dating, like the ensemble, from 1998), be it the seven slow steps of the chorale at the piece's center, or the pulsing seven-beat pattern underpinning much of the finale; Chang-Freiheit and marimba soloist William Manley gave a finely shaded, persuasive reading of the music, which borrows freely from populist tonality and minimalism without coming off as beholden to either.
Eight months after the premiere of his final symphony, Robert Schumann composed his Op. 110 Piano Trio, similarly assimilating his aphoristic penchant into a formally grand conception; Kurkowicz, Popper-Keizer, and pianist Gloria Chien ranged from intimate to epic, with a generous dynamic range and a superbly paced sense of drama.
Nine times out of 10, such a coincidental criterion for programming would produce a disjunct patchwork, but a common thread of Romantic expressivity - and a sense of occasion - tied the evening into a satisfying whole. Ten years on, the Chameleons still revel in adapting to each new eclectic color.