Brilliant weekend Recital by MIT ProfessorARK:CLASSI.03A-ISH$03-105
Boston Premiere Ensemble, Church of the Advent, Feb. 9; Leontyne Price, Symphony Hall, Feb. 10, John Buttrick, Kresge Auditorium, Feb. 10.
On a chilly night, in the candle-lit Church of the Advent, the sound of Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 1 surrounded and warmed the audience. In some ways, the Boston Premiere Ensemble approach to Bach was old-fashioned. The textures were rich, the sound full and quite in contrast to the anti-romantic "authentic" style so much favored in Boston. But, in contrast to the saccharine-sweet Stuttgart approach which now seems so antithetical to the clean lines of the Baroque, the Premiere Ensemble played with an elegance and restraint.
It played with a balance orchestrated to bring out the pleasures of individual instruments while maintaining the cohesiveness of the whole. The interplay of David Carney's crystalline harpsichord with Nancy Cirillo's sweet first violin was especially delightful.
The balance, for the second piece, though, was unfortunately less than perfect. The two soloists in Telemann's Concerto for Recorder, Flute and Strings in E minor were often submerged in the orchestra's over-enthusiasm. But, winners of the 1985 Boston Premiere Ensemble Concerto Competition Laura Barron, flute -- a high school junior -- and Maria Diez-Canedo, recorder -- a student of early music at the Longy School -- both played fluently. The piece was altogether charming, culminating in a humorous presto, drone like strings chasing flighty winds to refresh the ears.
The concert ended with Graupner's Mein Gott, warum hast du mich verlassen, claimed to be the first performance outside of Europe. During his life Graupner may have been regarded in some circles as being on a par with Bach, but his music, though perhaps interesting from a historical viewpoint, turns out to be far from great. Despite one well-sung aria, Soll ich mich denn stets mit Tr"anen (sung by John Ehrlich), the performance was uneventful.
There were several notable moments to an otherwise unspecial Symphony Hall recital by Leontyne Price. The first came in her rendition of Ach, ich f"uhl's (from The Magic Flute), which William Mann has referred to as "the most affecting music Mozart ever wrote for any voice." It is an aria of pain, but with grief paradoxically concentrated in an intense calm. There was a purity to Price's voice that amplified feeling; there was an eternal mystery as in transparent, disembodied voice she dwelt on death (so wird Ruhe, so wird Ruh'im Tode sein). Night ed: Insert musical item here, please Der Stern by Strauss was brightly sung; and St"andchen, also by Strauss, told a story characterfully. Ich liebe dich carried a drama and a depth peculiar to Price and "Snake" by Ned Rorem sizzled with good humor. Many of the other items seemed a trifle dull, though: Price did not seem to always be using her full capabilities. The concert ended, nonetheless, with five triumphant encores, including a particularly splendid Summertime.
Reger's music is less well known than it should be, but MIT Professor John Buttrick's brilliant performance of his Six Intermezzi, Op. 45 made a compelling case for his work. At his hands the music sung, danced, skipped and bounded, took off on intellectual excursions and came full circle with a laugh overwhelming any frown. Complexities were sharpened and highlighted by the forceful flow of the first movement. The second movement combined elegance with playfulness, while the third, more gently expressive, left us on a thoughtful note. The fourth, fast, with humor, had wonderful flair, while the fifth delivered us back to introspection. The closing movement began frantically, Buttrick simulating jumping and tumbling sensations on the keyboard. Reger appropriately marked the finale As fast as is somehow possible, and Buttrick did not fail to stick to the composer's instructions.
The next item in this unusual program was Enoch Arden, Tennyson's heart-rending poem set to music by Strauss. In it we follow the plight of Arden as he sails off to sea, is shipwrecked and returns home years later to find his wife remarried, himself assumed drowned. Christopher Lydon, narrator, gave a dramatic reading, while Buttrick's approach was to understate the simple music and allow it to build on the poetry of Tennyson's words. The effect was deeply moving. We felt the weeping as Enoch left; we sensed, also, the yearning of Philipp, his "eyes full of lifelong hunger," but we are struck the more deeply by Enoch's grief upon return to find his wife now married to Philipp, and are filled with a numbing, yet sublimely beautiful, terror as Arden dwells on death, the gentleness in the piano underlining his sorrow, and his nobility too.
Beethoven's Sonata No. 30, Op. 109, contains one of Beethoven's most intimate movements, Gesangvoll, mit der innigsten Empfindung. It is a difficult piece, and one that is easy for all but the most accomplished to slip up on. Buttrick took a plain, uncluttered approach, letting the passions of the music breathe freely, making it easy to be drawn into the fragments of stillness and to be lost in moments of sad reflection. Buttrick's depth brought new light to bare on a well-known work, bringing glory out of torment, engaging the mind head-on and, more than that, capturing the soul. Music, despite the invisibility of tones, has a unique ability to penetrate deep and conquer all the senses; with Buttrick at the piano, one could only left be with a sense of the complete elation of having discovered new truth.