Boston Musica Viva closes season with eclectic and rewarding program

May 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

By Stefanie Lubkowski

Boston Musica Viva performed Saturday night at Pickman Hall.

Boston Musica Viva finished its season Saturday night with an enjoyably eclectic program of five works that juxtaposed action and contemplation.

The evening at the Longy School of Music’s Pickman Hall began with Sean Shepherd’s Lumens (scored, like most of the evening’s works, for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and percussion). The work’s palindromic form is articulated by dark and sensuous clarinet and violin solos contrasted with a somewhat clichéd bright and rhythmic motif.  William Kirkly brought a sensitivity to his clarinet solos that was adeptly matched by violinist Gabriela Diaz’s luscious tone and energetic phrasing to create the best moments in the piece.  Occasionally, a rich harmony would pop out of brittle material for an all-too-brief moment. Amid these changes, conductor Richard Pittman unobtrusively maintained flow and momentum.

Boston composer Julie Rohwein’s Borne on the Wind, inspired by the Idaho prairie and memories of her father, was similarly filled with contrast and change. The opening  gestures had a strong Romantic streak, contrasted sharply by abstract and disjunct phrases from the percussion and piano. Such stark contrasts and quick turns of texture and mood were yet well balanced and replete with such engaging melody and fresh sounds that the logic of the piece was never disrupted. There were many wonderful moments, such as a richly harmonized piano solo, and a combination of field drum and glissando gestures, that made the work seem to go by too quickly.

Kaleidoscope, by William Kraft, was the most organically organized piece of the evening, and the most engaging. Kraft began by trading a sighing motif among the players, demonstrating a superb sense of space, timing, and phrasing. As this initial material subtly developed into more assertive gestures, Kraft created a marvelous variety of rich and dense textures from small performing forces, elegantly combining even the most disparate material. Audience reaction to Kaleidoscope was so enthusiastic that Pittman opted to immediately repeat the piece, much to the delight of Kraft, who was in attendance.

In the second half of the program, BMV presented the revised version of Brian Robison’s A Field Guide to North American Car Alarms. For this performance, the flute, violin, and clarinet were placed on the balcony, while the cello, piano, and percussion remained on stage. This spatialization gave the growing cacophony of flourishes bouncing around and accumulating among the instruments an impressive sense of drama in the introductory section. The ensuing section alternated between a restless, sighing gesture and moments of repose provided by Kirkly’s sonorous, sustained clarinet multiphonics. The concluding fugue section was likewise subdued, and while there were many wonderful passages, especially a combination of instrumental trills and clanky percussion timbres expertly executed by Robert Schulz, the Field Guide never quite recaptured the raucous texture from whence it began, leaving the listener with a regrettable sense of inertia.

The final piece of the evening, Dutch composer Theo Loevendie’s Six Turkish Folkpoems embodied the contrasts featured throughout Boston Musica Viva’s program. Likewise, the short poems alternated between sentimental nostalgia and flirtatious humor. These six continuous movements featured soprano Sarah Pelletier, whose smooth vocal tone was a perfect match for the well-blended ensemble, which in this piece also included harp. The piece began with piano and harp joined in a sparse accompanying texture over which Pelletier’s delicately ornamental lines floated, always bookended by violin and cello interjections. The second movement provided contrast with a staccato texture in the clarinet and percussion and a playful, patter-style vocal line. The following poems elaborated on these two moods, adding moments of mystery, tension, and complex beauty.

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