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Fenwick Smith’s Thirty-third Annual Jordan Hall Recital Offered Wide Range of Material


Fenwick Smith‘s annual NEC recital (number 33!) brought a wide range of material to Jordan Hall on Sunday afternoon, September 13. C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in G (W. 86) was a reminder of this composer’s comfort zone: not grand theater, but casual conversation between close friends. Flute and harpsichord (John Gibbons) played with a delicate rubato. The impression was of a post-dinner conversation, wine having freely flowed.

John Heiss’s Five Pieces for Flute and Cello (Natasha Brofsky) sat at the edge of tonality. They were of the genre of modern (ca. 1963) music that reached a pastoral sensibility through carefully dissonant counterpoint. I couldn’t help but be reminded of Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp.

Couperin’s Sixième Concert was a dance suite with harpsichord and cello (Laura Blustein). The music propelled itself through rhythmic tensions between parts. Its dances were powered by these dips and pulls.

Charles Koechlin’s Divertissement (op. 90) brought three flutes together: two sopranos (Seth Morris and Benjamin Smolen) and an alto (Smith). It relished in sustained flute tones, carving out blocks of sound and letting them rub up against each other. Unfortunately, this stasis proved more a liability than an asset for the music’s dramatic momentum.

Carl Maria von Weber is mainly known for his operas, but this program brought out his G minor Trio (op. 63). It occupied a dramatic world familiar to his theater work: a natural world full of murky terror, where your only way out of the woods is illuminated by a lightning storm. The players (adding Brofsky on cello, Randall Hodgkinson on piano) gave the piece proper shape without overselling the story. The music was plenty potent on its own.

Adam Baratz is a composer and pianist. He lives in Cambridge.

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