Lis­ten Up

Pasatiempo - - PASATIEMPO -

James M. Keller re­views per­for­mances by the Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Orchestra and Mark Mor­ris Dance Group’s Mu­sic Ensem­ble

Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Orchestra Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, Nov. 8

Mark Mor­ris Dance Group and Mu­sic Ensem­ble Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter, Oct. 27

It was strings to the fore when Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Orchestra pre­sented a sat­is­fy­ing con­cert of mu­sic for string orchestra last week­end at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter. The 26 play­ers — eight first vi­o­lins, seven sec­onds, five vi­o­las, four cel­los, two dou­ble basses — evinced great plea­sure in their work. It must have brought them de­light to spend sev­eral days im­mersed in re­hears­ing and per­form­ing works for just their own mu­si­cal fam­ily, an idea that will most likely pay con­tin­u­ing ben­e­fits for Pro Mu­sica’s over­all ensem­ble skills as the sea­son un­folds. Con­duc­tor Thomas O’Con­nor brought thor­ough at­ten­tion to the in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the reper­toire and was ob­vi­ously abet­ted by de­tailed mid­dle-man­age­ment sup­port from the five sec­tion prin­ci­pals, who all de­serve a spe­cial shout-out: con­cert­mas­ter Stephen Red­field, sec­ond vi­o­lin­ist Karen Clarke, vi­o­list Kim Fre­den­burgh, cel­list James Hol­land, and dou­ble bassist Aaro Heinonen.

O’Con­nor as­sem­bled an imag­i­na­tive pro­gram of mu­sic from the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st cen­turies. First up was Bach’s fa­mil­iar Con­certo in D mi­nor for Two Vi­o­lins (BWV 1043), in which Red­field took the first solo part and Cármelo de los San­tos played the sec­ond. The parts are es­sen­tially equal, the sec­ond of­ten par­ry­ing the thrusts of the first in bravura coun­ter­point. The two soloists made an odd couple. Red­field fa­vored a re­strained ap­proach, his chaste tone em­pha­sized by min­i­miz­ing vi­brato, his ex­pres­siv­ity de­rived from pointed niceties of ar­tic­u­la­tion, af­ter the man­ner of his­tor­i­cally in­formed per­for­mance. De los San­tos, who per­formed with his ac­cus­tomed el­e­gance, ad­hered to a more tra­di­tional ap­proach, sport­ing a voluptuous tim­bre and wider mo­ment-to-mo­ment dy­namic in­flec­tion. There is not a right or wrong way to bal­ance the solo parts in a work such as this. It is more com­mon for the soloists to mir­ror each other as much as pos­si­ble, but ad­van­tages also at­tach to an in­ter­pre­ta­tion such as this, in which the play­ers are set off by their strik­ing dif­fer­ences. Lis­ten­ers who closed their eyes would have had no dif­fi­culty iden­ti­fy­ing which vi­o­lin­ist was which at any mo­ment.

Anna Clyne com­posed Prince of Clouds in 2012 through a com­mis­sion gen­er­ated by the vi­o­lin­ist Jen­nifer Koh, who was seek­ing a dou­ble vi­o­lin con­certo to pro­gram along with Bach’s. Here, the soloists switched parts, with de los San­tos play­ing the top line and Red­field the lower. Much of the piece strikes an ele­giac tone, prob­a­bly in­tended to re­call the su­per­nal mid­dle move­ment of the Bach con­certo. When it does not, how­ever, it goes to the other ex­treme, with the soloists and the or­ches­tral strings in­flict­ing ve­he­ment, dis­so­nant slashes, here ren­dered with in­ci­sive pre­ci­sion. The piece oc­cu­pies a sin­gle move­ment of about 15 min­utes, and the ele­giac ethos in­hab­its enough of that span to lend a cloy­ing at­mos­phere over­all. Even in the more fe­ro­cious parts, the mu­sic tends to­ward har­monic sta­sis, an­chored by ei­ther a tonic tone or a pas­sacaglia-like bass pro­gres­sion. Against th­ese, the ac­cented crashes, pizzi­catos, and punchy per­mu­ta­tions of melodic cells seemed not really in­te­gral to the piece. The short­com­ings lay with the work rather than the per­for­mance. When all is said and done, its feet re­mained stuck in the mud, and it seemed all too ea­ger to con­clude in keen­ing Bar­berisms.

El­gar’s Ser­e­nade for Strings re­ceived a full-throated, rich-toned in­ter­pre­ta­tion, reach­ing its sum­mit in the warmly bur­nished, vi­ola-fla­vored ten­der­ness of the mid­dle move­ment. To con­clude, the group of­fered Shostakovich’s so-called Cham­ber Symphony for Strings (Op.118a), which is ac­tu­ally a com­poser-en­dorsed string-orchestra ar­range­ment by vi­o­list Ru­dolf Bar­shai of Shostakovich’s String Quar­tet No. 10 of 1964. It’s easy enough to up­scale a string quar­tet by just hav­ing or­ches­tral sec­tions play what were orig­i­nally solo lines and then in­struct the dou­ble basses to sup­port the cello part an oc­tave lower. That is es­sen­tially what Bar­shai did, but he also in­cor­po­rated a few ef­fec­tive touches like giv­ing the basses mo­ments of their own and in­clud­ing pas­sages where solo play­ers emerge from the larger tex­ture. O’Con­nor cap­tured the work’s un­op­ti­mistic mood: the emo­tional frigid­ity of its muted first move­ment, the violence of its sec­ond, the lugubri­ous brood­ing of the third, the grim laugh­ter-through-tears of the fourth. Un­for­tu­nately, it also cast Clyne’s piece in an un­flat­ter­ing light. Shostakovich, too, em­ploys all the spe­cial ef­fects, but they en­hance a mu­si­cal core that Clyne’s con­certo seemed to lack.

Such a treat it was to ex­pe­ri­ence the Mark Mor­ris Dance Group back on Oct. 27, also at the Len­sic. This lav­ish evening, spon­sored by Per­for­mance Santa Fe, brought in a troupe com­pris­ing 17 dancers. That is in it­self sub­stan­tial for a tour­ing com­pany, but Mor­ris’ dancers al­ways per­form to mu­sic played or sung live by mem­bers of the com­pany’s mu­sic ensem­ble, which is di­rected by pi­anist Colin Fowler. The Oct. 27 per­for­mance ex­em­pli­fied how closely th­ese el­e­ments of dance and mu­sic were in­ter­locked even while oc­cu­py­ing sep­a­rate planes. To be sure, it

The Oct. 27 per­for­mance of the Mark Mor­ris Dance Group ex­em­pli­fied how closely the el­e­ments of dance and mu­sic were in­ter­locked even while oc­cu­py­ing sep­a­rate planes.

is im­pos­si­ble — and point­less — to lis­ten to the mu­sic-making with­out lend­ing con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion to the danc­ing, and vice versa. But the mu­si­cal per­for­mances were so care­fully turned as to merit some crit­i­cal ac­co­lades all their own.

The third and fourth move­ments of Lou Har­ri­son’s 1990 Pi­ano Trio pro­vided the sonic can­vas for the dance ti­tled Pa­cific. Har­ri­son de­scribed the third move­ment as “a lit­tle suite of so­los for the three mu­si­cians,” and in his score he marked those so­los “Dance,” “Rhap­sody,” and “Song.” From a mu­si­cal point of view, it was a gen­tle, el­e­gant way to work into the evening, with vi­o­lin­ist Ge­orgy Valtchev in­fus­ing the modal melodies of “Dance” with lilt­ing non­cha­lance, Fowler dis­patch­ing “Rhap­sody” with un­but­toned fer­vor, and cel­list An­drew Janss bring­ing lan­guid melan­choly to “Song,” the ten­der ac­com­pa­ni­ment to a pas de deux. All three play­ers joined for the fi­nale, a piece sug­ges­tive of Chi­nese mu­sic; here, the pi­ano’s tintinnab­u­la­tion led to a cli­max that epit­o­mized Har­ri­son’s sig­na­ture blend of child­like sim­plic­ity and heart­felt sin­cer­ity.

THE was danced to Bach’s First Bran­den­burg Con­certo, not in its fa­mil­iar or­ches­tral set­ting but rather in the version for pi­ano four-hands crafted in 1904-1905 by Max Reger. Fowler and fel­low pi­anist Ye­gor Shevtsov ren­dered it with pre­cise ar­tic­u­la­tion and abun­dant good spir­its, of­ten in­still­ing the phrase end­ings with a lift that pro­pelled the danc­ing on­ward. They placed the tim­bral cen­ter of grav­ity mostly in the tenor range (though they some­how en­dowed the Trio II of the Menuetto with high-pitched nasal­ity that evoked Bach’s orig­i­nal oboes), and they some­times drew out bits of in­ner-voice coun­ter­point that tend to go un­no­ticed in or­ches­tral ren­di­tions. Mor­ris re­versed the or­der of Bach’s last two move­ments, which meant the piece ended not with the mul­ti­part Menuetto but rather with the bois­ter­ous Al­le­gro that usu­ally pre­cedes it — an al­ter­ation that made good the­atri­cal sense.

The fifth of Jo­hann Ne­po­muk Hum­mel’s seven pi­ano trios, in E ma­jor (from 1819), is a sly and sub­tle work that gave rise to Mor­ris’ Fes­ti­val

Dance. The mu­si­cians played straight man to the chore­o­graphic com­men­tary, as when, in the first move­ment, a de­cep­tive ca­dence ac­com­pa­nied a dancer’s ges­ture of fore­bod­ing or when the stage was sud­denly filled with dancers at the point where that move­ment’s de­vel­op­ment sec­tion reached its mo­ment of dens­est tex­ture. Valtchev and Janss em­pha­sized con­trasts of vi­brato to in­ten­sify ex­pres­siv­ity in the slow move­ment, and Shevtsov hung on for dear life through the high-ve­loc­ity war­bling of the pi­ano part in the alla po­lacca fi­nale.

Thomas O’Con­nor con­duct­ing Santa Fe Pro Mu­sica Orchestra

Mem­bers of the Mark Mor­ris Dance Group in Pa­cific

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.