Kammerwerke presents offbeat program but, technically, needs some Werk

October 30, 2011 at 11:33 pm

By Susie Y. Kim

Ruth Gipps' "Seascape" was among the works performed by Kammerwerke Sunday in Newton.

The Kammerwerke orchestra has a noble mission: to bring smaller scale and lesser-known chamber works to the Boston area.

On Sunday afternoon, the double woodwind quintet of the resident orchestra of Eliot Church of Newton presented an audacious and promising program led by Alan Pearlmutter. Comprised mainly of composers of the late-Romantic era, the repertoire proved to be challenging for the ensemble, who performed gamely but whose playing suffered from a lack of cohesion.

Kammerwerke was at its best with the final work, Suite Persane by Andre Caplet. Inspired by cultural contact with Middle Eastern music at Paris’s 1900 Universal Exhibition, the piece features exotic scales and rich colors. The flute and horn trio of the first movement was expressive and fluid, showing that the ensemble is capable of smoothly polished playing. The solo lines of the high winds were consistently well done, as were spotlighted passages for duos. Principal flutist Carol Epple shined throughout as did the two clarinetists.

For such a small group, the range of dynamics Pearlmutter was able to bring out from the 11 players was impressive, and they benefited from the accommodating acoustic of Eliot Church’s chapel.

The Nonet (“Divertimento for Wind Instruments”) by German teacher and composer Gustav Schreck (1849-1918) gave the musicians manifold opportunities to show off their versatility, and Pearlmutter nicely underlined the movements’ stylistic contrasts. The opening Allegro, evocative of the Classical era, suited the ensemble best.

Ruth Gipps’ Seascape proved the most interesting discovery of the afternoon. Though little known in the U.S., Gipps (1921-99) was a noted name in her native Great Britain as musician and composer. Her familiarity with the oboe and English horn was clear in her intricate composition, which skillfully varied the different timbres available in a wind ensemble.

The complex and layered scoring of the program overall called for a group of players more attuned with one another, and unfortunately, unity was not Kammerwerke’s strength on Sunday — perhaps due to the fact that the ensemble often plays in differently sized groups for each concert. The technical shortcomings — ragged entrances, unbalanced textures and ill-tuned bassoons — were all the more frustrating because of the clear potential Kammerwerke showed throughout the concert. Closing cadences were tightly executed and showed the impressive control the ensemble is capable of. The Cortege of Debussy’s Petite Suite was especially notable in this regard with each line being passed around the ensemble smoothly and effortlessly.

Boston is fortunate to have a local ensemble solely dedicated to chamber music with a focus on wind instruments. With further growth — and some additional rehearsal time — Kammerwerke will likely make an impact on Boston’s musical scene.

Posted in Performances

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