Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 3, 2014

Boston Symphony Chamber Players

Tanglewood, Lenox, MA
July 1, 2014
by Michael J. Moran

The Boston Symphony Chamber Players ensemble is made up of BSO principal players, often supplemented by other members of the orchestra. They perform several times a year in Boston, and they recently made a welcome return to Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood.

To celebrate their 50th anniversary season in 2013-2014, the group commissioned new pieces from four composers. One was Yehudi Wyner’s wind quintet, “Into the evening air,” which opened the concert. While its title derives from an elegiac late poem by Wallace Stevens, most of its eight-minute length is quite lively before it reaches a quiet ending.

Elizabeth Rowe, John Ferrillo
The bracing textures of this colorful music were beautifully rendered by flutist Elizabeth Rowe, oboist John Ferrillo, clarinetist William R. Hudgins, bassoonist Richard Svoboda, and horn player James Sommerville.

Claude Debussy lived to finish only three of six chamber pieces he started composing during the First World War. One of them was the next piece on the program, his lovely “Sonata for Flute, Harp, and Viola,” completed in 1915, which was ravishingly performed by flutist Rowe, violist Steven Ansell, and harpist Jessica Zhou.

The program closed with a vibrant account of Franz Schubert’s massive “Octet in F” for winds and strings. In 1824 a clarinetist friend asked Schubert to write a piece modeled on Beethoven’s then popular “Septet” for the same combination of instruments. Though he added a second violin, Schubert even followed the same sequence of movements. The BSO ensemble played the three slow movements with loving warmth and the three faster ones with rousing vigor, except for the closing Allegro, whose relaxed tempo emphasized its Austrian folk dance character.

The first violin and the clarinet had the most solo passages, which BSO concertmaster Malcolm Lowe and clarinetist Hudgins dispatched with flair and affection. Oboist Ferrillo, bassoonist Svoboda, and horn player Sommerville also contributed distinctive playing, as did violinist Haldan Martinson, cellist Sato Knudsen, and double bass player Edwin Barker.

While the wind instruments made their usual cooling impact on this sultry evening, the playing by these seasoned musicians was as red hot as the appreciative audience could have wanted.