Let's rock

By LLOYD SCHWARTZ  |  January 25, 2010

Courtney Lewis's almost unerring instinct for rhythmic life let him down at the start of his Discovery Ensemble concert this past Sunday. Although Bach's Third Orchestral Suite was neither timid nor precious, it felt airless, especially in the heavenly Air (which raced when it should have floated), and it suffered from awkward transitions in tempo. The terrific Dorchester kids in the Boston City Singers (their identities as individuals and as a group unconscionably omitted in the program) breathed more life into Bartók's charming Six Songs for Children's Chorus. But only after intermission was this the outfit I've come to love. Stravinsky's sublime but restrained 1928 neo-classical string score, Apollo (first titled Apollon musagète — "Apollo, Leader of the Muses"), is rarely heard outside the ballet world — it's almost impossible to keep all those strings in tune. But Lewis's incandescent performance, with concertmaster Joshua Weilerstein's violin solo, was beyond perfection in its understanding of Stravinsky's melodies and interweaving variations. Everything breathed. Prokofiev's scintillating Classical Symphony brought down the curtain.

Violist Marcus Thompson, the Boston Chamber Music Society's new director, kicked off 2010 with a three-part concert series/symposium at MIT exploring the nature of time. I enjoyed the concert I caught: Beethoven's early E-flat String Trio, Dvorák's American String Quintet (which paired Thompson with another magnificent violist, Roger Tapping), and the first live performance of the irresistibly vertiginous string quartet Peter Child composed in 2005 for Robert Florey's silent 1929 cinematic hymn to New York, Skyscraper Symphony. I hope the quartet enters the repertoire — with or without the film.

Editor's Note: In a previous version of this article, we incorrectly stated that the Haydn First Cello Concerto was the first concerto Yo-Yo Ma ever recorded, there was in fact an earlier recording, the correction has been made above.

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