IN: Reviews

BCMS Shines Before Brunch


Chaste but sumptuous Tiffany detail from ASC sanctuary

A pre-matinee from the Boston Chamber Music Society made a novel addition to the classical concert scene, as Debussy and Dvořák sounded during the Saturday brunch hour at the Arlington Street Church. A trio of violinist Jennifer Frautschi, cellist Colin Carr, and pianist Andrew Armstrong, performed mostly magnificently before some hundred early birds.

First a caveat: Pizzicatos sometimes disappeared and certain low cello notes very nearly boomed in the old church’s sanctuary.

Debussy’s 1917 Sonata for Violin and Piano in G minor yielded somewhat to the space that riskily verged on sonic cavernousness. As a result, warmness, and especially intimations, grew larger than they were meant to be, cloaking and betraying a true Debussy-esque aura.

After making an accustoming effort, one could get behind or underneath such a “veil” and ultimately experience rewards.  The duo of Frautschi and Armstrong invigorated the sonata whose tempo directions they took up munificently—lively, whimsically, and very animated—for the three movements. Despite that veil, they injected just the right dose of American gusto into the French naturalness of Debussy. Throughout, Frautschi and Armstrong enticed with finely varied hues.

Antonín Dvořák’s 1883 Piano Trio in F Minor, Op. 65 fared far better in the sanctuary. The composition’s classical propensities, particularly as to design, would make for clearer and more direct musical expression. And the trio of Frautschi, Carr, and Armstrong sought out those very propensities, chiming amongst themselves as much as with Dvořák.

And while these three played together in one esprit, each contributed individuality, not only instrumentally but interpretively as well. From Frautschi’s violin came sonic sparks and narratives that stood out alongside the nuanced songful resonances of Carr’s cello and the rainbow of timbres from all points on Armstrong’s piano.

Dvořák circulates melodic thoughts among the trio’s members. These they took up not as simple straight forward imitations, but rather, they developed them dynamically as in a story, be it Czech folkishness, or Brahmsian flair. The tender melody of the Poco adagio changing disposition from one instrument to another spoke to this. And to their singularly spirited chase through nostalgia and striving all through the finale, a life’s summary of sorts, their Allegro con brio continued the story that should not have been missed.    

The church had room for hundreds more. We encourage readers to look out for the next of these refreshing midinées in a season to come.

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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