Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIV, No. 13
 
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
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Music/Theater

Richardson Chamber Players Send the “Winter Winds” Away Sunday Afternoon With Confident Chamber Program

Nancy Plum

When the Richardson Chamber Players decided to call its winter concert “Blow Thou Winter Winds,” the players likely had no idea just how many winter winds there would actually be this year. With March trying really hard to creep into spring, the Chamber Players offered a serene and unruffled program of chamber music in their home of Richardson Auditorium on Sunday afternoon. Eighteen instrumentalists, both professional and student, crisply wended their way through music of several different periods to demonstrate very solid ensemble playing.

Co-Artistic Director Michael Pratt conducted the first and third pieces on the program, both of which included more than ten players. These two works, by Richard Wagner and Antonin Dvorak, were scored on the darker side of orchestration, yet were played cleanly and precisely enough to bring out the joy and contentment in the music. To augment the usual roster of Chamber Players, Mr. Pratt drew from the University Orchestra, allowing some very talented students to play alongside the seasoned professionals.

The Richardson Chamber Players will present its final concert of the 2009-10 season on Sunday May 2 at 3:00 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium. “Love in Bloom” will feature Johannes Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltzes for vocal quartet and piano four hands. Ticket information can be obtained by calling the Richardson box office at (609) 258-5000.

Richard Wagner’s one-movement Siegfried Idyll is not so much connected to his towering Ring cycle opera as to a birthday gift for his beloved Cosima — cherished by her until avarice got the better of Wagner and he sold the work for publication. Siegfried Idyll juxtaposes a string quartet against an ensemble of winds and brass; as could be expected from a work by Wagner, there was a good representation from the two horn and trumpet players. The string quartet which began the work provided a sweet and engaging sound, especially from first violinist Anna Lim.

In conducting the work, Mr. Pratt left plenty of room for Ms. Lim to move through the triplets, accompanied by elegant discant playing from flutist Judith Pearce and oboist Robert Ingliss. Ms. Lim led the string quartet well, taking an ever so slight amount of time at cadences. The overall ensemble texture was well-blended, as melodies from individual instruments, such as from horn player Chris Komer and clarinetist Alan Kay, rose to the top.

Ms. Pearce took the stage alone to play three Fantasies for solo flute by Georg Philipp Telemann, a contemporary of J.S. Bach whose career followed a similar path and who composed in many of the same genres. Telemann composed Fantasies for a number of solo instruments, perhaps for instructive purposes. As the lone performer onstage, Ms. Pearce had to create the mood of the three Fantasies she selected by herself, and she expressed the early 18th century performing style well. All of the Fantasies included wide leaps in the solo line to create the illusion that there was more than one instrument playing, and Ms. Pearce wisely did not rush into the wide leaps, but kept the line smooth in spite of the range and offbeat rhythms. Her flute was especially translucent in the upper register, and her use of dynamic contrasts in the third Fantasie No. 2 in A minor emphasized a Baroque trait which would be very familiar to audiences.

An additional group of University Orchestra students joined the Chamber Players for Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds in D Minor. The cleanly played opening martial movement was no doubt very familiar to the audience, and was well held together by precise playing among the winds and well-defined bridges from cellist Susannah Chapman and double bassist Jack Hill. Dvorak placed a great deal of emphasis on the pair of oboes and clarinets, in this case oboists Mr. Ingliss and Justin Knutson and clarinetists Mr. Kay and Leo Kim. These four instrumentalists together create a very polished timbre, accompanied by a trio of deliberately understated horns. Careful phrasing and clean cutoffs added to the success of the “Moderato” movement. Mr. Ingliss and Mr. Kay continued to demonstrate refined and pastoral solo playing throughout the Serenade, complemented by the lush wind writing for the rest of the ensemble.

The Richardson Chamber Players has approached this year’s concerts with the theme of “All in Good Season.” The subtitle of “Blow Thou Winter Winds” may have been ironic in its coming at the end of an unprecedented winter (“and dump a whole lot of snow while you are at it”), but the exactness and musical attentiveness of the instrumentalists on Sunday afternoon was enough to chase any negative snow memories away.

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