Sunday, August 30, 2015

Six in a row...

Last evening at Atlanta's new Westside Cultural Center, the ATL Musicians played all six of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos.  These works, after some three hundred years, maintain their place as pillars of Western Art Music.  After cocktails and hor d'oeuvres, Ken Meltzer, the annotator of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra introduced the works.   The musicians were accompanied to the stage by conductor Michael Palmer.

The concertos were not played in sequential order, but rather in an order that demonstrated why they are appropriately called concertos.  Each features different instruments and the sequence chose here highlighted those contrasts.  Because this is such wonderful and familiar music, AMC has decided only to highlight some of the best performances:

Concerto 1- Emily Brebach, Samuel Nemc and Yvonne Powers Peterson were so precise in their playing it was as if their fingers were interconnected.  They demonstrated some of the best playing of the evening.  Kudos also to Brice Andrus and Susan Welty who played the technically difficult horn passages with skill.  Maestro Palmer keep the tempo energetic with much forward motion.

Concerto 3- This concerto highlights all of the strings plus harpsichord.  No one actually stood out here because they were all so good.  Again the tempos were appropriate and brisk.

Concerto 5- Flautists Christine Smith and Todd Skitch each had a shimmery tone that was warm and both were technically brilliant.  The harpsichord cadenzas played by David Bensinger were nothing short of startling.  He played this very difficult music with aplomb and he demonstrated subtlety and great dynamics.  AMC has never heard the nuances in these passages quite as well as played by Bensinger.  AMC usually dislikes the tinny sound of most recorded harpsichords; hearing one live is a totally different experience.

Concerto 2- After the interval, the program began with the Brandenburg 2.  It was the most problematic of the evening with several gaffs that were a bit cringe-inducing.  Kudos to Jun-Ching Lin for his great solo work.

Concerto 6- The Brandenburg is mostly for the low strings. Paul Murphy and Catherine Lynn on viola were stunning- and that is no exaggeration.  They were precise and their intonation was impeccable.  They were another standout pairing in this concert.

Concerto 4- The most notable performance here was by Jun-Ching Lin.  His tone was wonderful- his lower strings have a dark quality that almost make them sound like the larger viola.  His fingerings were impressive in this very difficult solo work.

Throughout all of the performances, the cellos (Christopher Rex, Daniel Laufer, and Brad Richie) played to the high standard that AMC has come to expect.  And also not unexpectedly, Michael Kurth provided a crisp and solid bass line.

This program was produced by the new Atlanta arts organization, Anacrusis Productions, led by Michael Yip. Maestro Palmer is that organization's Artistic Director.

One final note- from the stage Messrs Meltzer and Yip encouraged the audience to show their appreciation throughout the performance and not to wait for breaks between sections.  The audience complied and there was immediate feedback for great performances.  The musicians seemed to like itt.  AMC was dubious, but it was a really nice feature of the evening.

1 comment:

  1. There's something immediately dignified about this venue - it is beautifully designed, tasteful, and understated. Went to these comfy event spaces recently, just the right temperature, good food and great experience.