The Boston Classical Orchestra played a first-rate program on Saturday Oct. 22 in historic Faneuil Hall with nary a violin in sight. The thoughtfully programmed concert featuring works by the “three B’s”, J.S. Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Johannes Brahms, exploited the riches of the medium and lower registers of the orchestra to great effect.
The program opened with the Beethoven’s Wind Octet. Although the work is listed as op. 103, Beethoven had written it much earlier than the high number implies, and indeed, the humor of the pieces is more reminiscent of Haydn string quartets than some of Beethoven’s later works. In particular the octave hiccup which opens the melody in the Menuet movement made a lighthearted impression. The performers played with excellent balance, beauty of tone, and generally good intonation. Some wickedly difficult horn moments were dispatched with aplomb by Lee Wadenpfuhl.
The performance of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 showcased world-renowned violist Kim Kashkashian (read BMint’s recent interview with her here) and her former student, the excellent Dimitri Murrath as the soloists, with Music Director Steven Lipsitt directing from the harpsichord. Scored for two violas, two violas da gamba, cello, bass & harpsichord, this piece was played at an incredibly bright tempo, which allowed both Ms. Kashkashian and Mr. Murrath to display their flawless technical facility. It used to be thought that violists were the violinists who “couldn’t cut it”. That antiquated thought was more than put to rest by the fleetness of their perfectly matched passagework, their flawless intonation, and the complete ease with which these brilliantly matched musicians cantered and galloped together like a pair of race horses. As the piece was coming to the return of the theme at the end of the third movement, Ms. Kashkashian could be seen smiling with the joy that sometimes comes in a performance when all elements are in place: expressing pleasure at the physical exhilaration of mastering particularly difficult passages, at her communion with and respect for the brilliance of the composer who has written such things, and at the breathless attention she could sense from the audience members who were on the edges of their chairs sharing this experience.
The concert concluded with a sumptuous rendition of Brahms’s Serenade No. 2 which Lipsitt conducted and the forces played with great warmth and delicacy. Often Brahms sounds dense and rich as triple chocolate fudge; this performance was lyrical and transparent, letting his melodic gifts sing. All in all, it was a very satisfying evening.