Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

March 21, 2016

J.S. Bach & Sons: Legitimate and Otherwise

Close Encounters with Music
Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington, MA
March 19, 2016
by Barbara Stroup

The early music movement has taken its share of criticism for performance practice guidelines for pre-symphonic music. When these performance standards are honored, however, the listener is offered a magical transparency and clarity.

Acronym, a “Baroque string band” and its talented guest soloists, presented just that kind of listening experience in its March 19th program. There was variety, ensemble tightness, and an overall joyful acoustic experience. Individual artists could be heard but without disruption of texture. There was a fresh vitality in all the playing and an especially sensitive continuo section. James Austin Smith’s oboe sound was lush; Dave Shuford’s harpsichord solo was rapturous.

Yehuda Hanani
The amiable and learned Yehuda Hanani (the series director) began the evening with verbal program notes both entertaining and educational. He later performed as a solo cellist. The violins were featured in the first part of the program (there were a few intonation problems on the C Minor Fugue. Shuford’s harpsichord solo was rapturous; the first half ended with the double concerto for oboe and violin. The sound was lush and assertive from both soloists and the oboe provided a nice contrast to the bow and plectra.

There was a short but humorous nod to the fictitious P.D.Q. Bach after intermission before the romantic performance of a modern “Baroque” concerto by Henri Casadesus, performed by Hanani.  In his encore Andante by J.S. Bach (transcribed for cello), he and the ensemble continued to show their mutual support and admiration. It was later revealed from the stage that Hanani has been the cello teacher for Acronym’s own cellist, Kivie Cahn-Lipman, since the age of five.
The evening ended with the familiar Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 and the audience was dazzled all over again by virtuoso string playing from these young and talented instrumentalists.

The “Close Encounters” series includes an eclectic mix of performers, genres, and themes; these concerts make a delightful roster in the fine acoustics of the Mahaiwe, the gem of the Berkshires’ venues.