Om October 5, an avuncular Laurance Lesser presided with obvious pride over the 25th anniversary performance of the First Monday at Jordan Hall Series that he had originated in 1985. His reliable amalgam of faculty, students, alumni and friends delivered themselves for the 25th time of a warmly felt and imaginatively conceived program to an enthusiastic crowd. The evening began with a dramatic darkening of the house as antiphonal brass choirs deployed on opposite sides of the balcony, illuminated only by their music stand lights. They opened the festivities with suitable fanfare in a stately rendition of two Gabrielli Canzonas. The only other light in the room fell on the great, gilded pipework of the Jordan Hall organ, whose heralds and pipes were unfortunately mute. This writer could not help but remember the recording organist, E. Power Biggs, made at Gabrielli’s St. Marco in Venice. That LP, a favorite stereo “show-off” record, combined the resonant sounds of antiphonal brass with the brilliant peals of the basilica’s organ.
In the Bach “Solo” Wedding Cantata, Weichet nur, betrübte Shatten BWV 202, the still lustrous-voiced soprano, Lisa Saffer, offered an alternately dramatic and consoling rendition—though without the production of many German consonants. Her partners, John Ferrillo, oboe; Paul Biss, violin; Miriam Fried, violin; Roger Tapping, viola, Laurence Lesser, cello; Benjamin Levy, double bass and John Gibbons, harpsichord; gave solid support on their mostly-modern instruments. In this context one wonders whether a piano might have been a successful alternative to John Gibbon’s excellent harpsichord. The continuo playing of cellist, Lesser and the oboe obligatto’s of John Ferrillo were especially noteworthy.
The evening closed with a well plotted Quintet in g minor of Mozart which could have benefited from a bit more of the risk taking, which an established ensemble would have dared.
This journal joins the very satisfied Jordan Hall audience in saluting emeritus NEC President, Laurance Lesser on the silver anniversary of his estimable series.