Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 26, 2013

Boston Symphony Chamber Players

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
August 20, 2013
by Michael J. Moran

Many orchestral musicians have long professed their love for playing chamber music. In a nod to this time-honored tradition, 17 members of the BSO presented a wide-ranging program dedicated to the memory of Elliott Carter, who died last November a month short of his 104th birthday.

Two short pieces by Carter opened the program. The first, a jazzy ten-minute “Woodwind Quintet” in two short movements, written in 1948, sounded very different from the starker, more challenging four-minute “Figment III” for double bass solo, written in 2007, which followed it. The five woodwind soloists were impeccable, and double bass player Edwin Barker was entertainingly virtuosic.

The first half of the concert closed with the original chamber version for 13 instruments of
Photo by Hilary Scott
Copland’s Suite from the ballet “Appalachian Spring.” BSO assistant conductor Marcelo Lehninger led a ravishing account of this classic score, which sounded even more transparent than usual in this scaled down version. Special kudos were earned by flutist Elizabeth Rowe and clarinetist Michael Wayne, whose sensitive playing made the most of the familiar big tunes.

While the first half of the evening showcased some newer and younger BSO members, the half following intermission belonged to an older generation, as 90-year-old pianist Menahem Pressler and three elder statesmen of the BSO took the stage. In 2012 Hungarian composer Gyorgy Kurtag wrote his haunting two-minute “Hungarian Impromptu” for Pressler, a member of the Beaux Arts Trio from its 1955 Tanglewood debut through its disbanding in 2008.

Pressler’s delicate performance of the Impromptu led without pause into a genial rendition of Mozart’s Quartet in E-flat, K. 493, to close the program. The partnership of BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe, violist Steven Ansell, and cellist Jules Eskin with Pressler yielded a vigorous opening Allegro, a lush but restrained Larghetto, and a joyous closing Allegretto.

The obvious pleasure that all the musicians took in each other’s company was echoed in the three standing ovations they received from an appreciative audience at the end of this memorable musical soiree.