A Far Cry goes from Bach and Bartok to Glass and Golijov at Rockport

July 8, 2018 at 2:57 pm

By Aaron Keebaugh

A Far Cry performed Saturday night at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Yoon S. Byun

A Far Cry performed Saturday night at the Rockport Chamber Music Festival. Photo: Yoon S. Byun

The campaign of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings in Israel that left thousands of Israelis and Palestinians dead in September of 2000 left Osvaldo Golijov deeply shaken. Looking to ease his mind, he took his son to a New York planetarium, where he was drawn to an image of the earth as viewed from a distance. While contemplating the vision of a tiny, beautiful blue dot in the vastness of space, Golijov found a moment of solace during that troubling time. 

The composer captured his feelings in his Tenebrae from 2002. Drawing upon quotations from François Couperin’s Leçons de ténèbres, which originally accompanied candlelight church services, Golijov’s music speaks with vigor now as it did eighteen years ago.

Saturday night at the Shalin Liu Performance Center, as part of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival, A Far Cry brought both soft reflection and sweet sadness to this ever-timely score.

Golijov, who currently serves as composer-in-residence with the Rockport Festival, originally scored Tenebrae for soprano, clarinet, and string quartet. Boston’s conductor-less orchestra presented their arrangement for large string ensemble Saturday night. The new setting is bright and plush. Unfolding from deep, resonant figures in the cellos and basses, the music moves glacially through dark chords. Violin lines swell and fade in its thirteen-minute length, and violas supply hushed chattering passages to add a touch of intensity. Throughout, the musicians played with warmth, lifting Golijov’s music like a quiet prayer.

Complementing Tenebrae were works that owed part of their inspiration to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.

A Far Cry’s performance of Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, which opened the program, flowed like oil. Playing without harpsichord, the ten-member ensemble rendered Bach’s churning lines with sensitivity, shifting textures deftly between solo and ensemble phrases. The second of the two movements went with dance-like energy.

In Philip Glass’s Symphony No. 3, Bach’s buoyant style is abstracted. Textures build steadily from small fragments in this most conservative of Glass’s eleven symphonies. In the first and third movements, A Far Cry crafted the oscillating rhythms into a musical engine that propelled ever forward. As in the Brandenburg Concerto, solos dot the texture, and principal violinist Jesse Irons floated a silvery line over the ensemble. In the second and fourth movements, the musicians, took on a slight edgy tone, digging into Glass’s surging lines and mixed-meters with the zeal of a village band.

Bartók’s Divertimento for Strings, also heard Saturday, resounded with similar drive and power to transform its Bachian counterpoint into a web of bristly modern sonorities. Bartók wrote this work in 1939 to mirror the delicacy of Mozart’s divertimenti, but the result is rife with Bartók’s own darkly inflected writing. Phrases take on the subtle and often eerie chromatic shades of the Hungarian folk music the composer collected.

A Far Cry played the themes of the first movement with Mozartean grace before unleashing the bold octaves and dissonances with dynamic force. The second movement resembled similar “night music” episodes as heard in Bartók’s string quartets and Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta. In this colorful movement, the musicians unwound the dusky sonorities and prickly effects in a robust crescendo. The finale pulsed with rustic flair to bring the performance to a vibrant conclusion.

The Rockport Chamber Music Festival will feature The Arc Ensemble and bass-baritone Davóne Tines in music by Enescu, Ibert and  Castelnuovo-Tedesco 5 p.m. Sunday at the Shalin Liu Performance Center. rockportmusic.org; 978-546-7391

Posted in Performances

One Response to “A Far Cry goes from Bach and Bartok to Glass and Golijov at Rockport”

  1. Posted Jul 10, 2018 at 6:53 pm by KAZUE BUSHNELL

    Yes, A Far Cry is a wonderful world class musicians who perform like one entity-like a flock of birds. my husband and I have been following them since their humble beginning and they never ceace to amaze us. we are sooo looking forward to see what they are going to take us next.

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