Academy pleasing; MIT orchestra on top formAncient of Ancient Music, conducted by Christopher Hogwood, Symphony Hall, March 8; MIT Symphony Orchestra, conducted by David Epstein, Kresge Auditorium, March 9; Boston Chamber Music Society, March 10, Sanders Theatre.
The Academy of Ancient Music opened their Boston concert with a repeat performance of Bach's Concerto for Two Violins in D minor, BWV 1043, heard in Worcester on Thursday night.
As in the Worcester performance, Catherine Mackintosh lapsed into moments of rawness during both the first and third movements, but there was unfortunately roughness in Christopher Hirons' performance, too. Tempi were also eccentric at times. But, as in Worcester, the second movement Largo ma non tanto was a model of dreamy ecstacy, the subtle textures of orchestra providing an eloquent field for the soloists' aeolian melodies to roam.
Emma Krkby's voice is light, and was occasionally thin in Bach's Wedding Cantata, BWV 202; diction was poor, too. But there was a freshness and prettiness to her singing that brought the piece to life. Her second aria, Phoebus eilt mit schnellen Pferden was sung sweetly. And the aria Sich uben im Lieben, im Scherzen was done with particular charm; the innocently chirpy joy in Kikby's voice here was captivating, and was amplified by an exquisite balance in the harpsichord, bass and cello continuo.
The concert ended with an idyllic performance of Handel's Apollo and Dafne. Apollo woos Dafne but is repeatedly rejected. Fed up, he transforms her into a plant: "If I cannot have you in my arms, at least I will wear you around my head," he sings.
David Thomas sang Apollo, leading lyrically into his opening aria, his deep clear voice making bold strokes at the evocative music. His second aria, Spezza l'arco e getta l'armi was also characterfully sung. Kirkby's entry, Felicissima quest'alma was sung angelically.
The duet Deh! Lascia addolcire was dramatically done, a flute attempting to assist Apollo's seduction attempt failing to deflect the attention of the evasive Dafne. Kirkby's voice remained true; Ripley's tone gained in urgency, lust rising through the striking harpsichord continuo lines of Mie piante correte.
The MIT Symphony Orchestra was on strong form for Saturday night's Kresge Auditorium concert. The first of Four Small Pieces by Bruckner, Marsch, showed the orchestra to be alert and well-coordinated: The sturdy March-like rhythms came through strong and clear.
The Moderato featured an excellent trumpet solo, while the third piece, Allegro non troppo, showed the strings in a restful, but explorative light. Precision in the concluding Andante con moto provided for a lively and open sound to take us to the triumpantly powerful crescendo finale.
Heinrich Schenker (1867-1935) was a music theorist who transcribed C. P. E. Bach's Concerto in A minor for piano. Today's "authentic instrument" purists are likely to be horrified: The transcription adds precisely the thickening of textures that the early music cognoscenti abhor. The performance sold the piece, though. There was a romance to pianist Irene Schreier's playing that was quite divorced from the baroque, but nonetheless pleasing in itself.
Her attack was warm and full; one could not help but enjoy her interpretive subtleties, especially as highlighted by the silky strings of the reduced-scale orchestra. The brief first-movement cadenza by Schenker was on a grand scale, and nicely played.
There was an expansiveness to the piano sound of the Andante and a soft sensitivity to the strings that brought forth glimpses of Mozart. Winds colored in the details with aplomb. Schreier's resilient playing and close relationship to the orchestra displayed the uplifting melodies in their full glory: This transcription may not be one of the greatest pieces of music ever composed, but it satisfied more than a mere taste for curiosity.
The rich, shimmering opening to Hindemith's Mathis der Maler heralded a growth in excitement to enormous proportions by the end of the first movement and showed how much the brass section has improved. The second movement included a fluent flute solo, but tensions were not lost and recoiled for the sharp opening to the last movement, a percussive snap, darkening of cellos, nervous undercurrents in violins evoking myriad images. Magnificent brass brought in a demonic quality, while the firmness of strings was transfixing.
Bottesini was a contrabass virtuoso and wrote the Grand Duo Concertante to show off his talents. Edwin Barker more than showed off his talents in the performance given by the Boston Chamber Music Society on Sunday night, smoothly riding over the most demanding of fireworks and, in concert with the beautifully phrased violin playing of Lynn Chang and light and charming piano playing of Jung-Ja Kim, providing a lively and humerous interpretation of the work.
Mendelssohn's Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66 came off successfully too, expressiveness of violin reflected in fluidity of piano and ease of cello (played by Bruce Coppock). The finale had a wonderful flow to it: the relationship between players was cohesively formed to generate a full sound to bring the piece warmly to a close.
There were several virtues to the Chamber Music Society's performance of Schubert's Trout Quintet, which ended the evening: It was technically proficient, finely balanced and was light in touch. It was not the most penetrating of attempts though, and lacked depth; if the trout was more than half-baked, it certainly wasn't well done.