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Chameleon’s Vintage Opener Sparkles

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Composer Jeremy Gill (file photo)

With Beethoven’s noble “Spring” and Milhaud’s jazzy “Création,” Chameleon Arts Ensemble began its 22nd season with repertory lesser and better known. Also programmed, a youthful Mahler and recently composed music by Jeremy Gill. Janácek’s status continued to rise by way of Boston’s polychrome ensemble.  

In their vintage opener Saturday evening, Stephanie Zyzak, Scott Woolweaver, Rafael Popper- Keizer, and Vivian Choi promoted Mahler’s not-often-enough heard Piano Quartet in A Minor. Teeming affection gave way to glimpses of turbulence and joyousness all in suave turns. Mahler’s go-to interval, the ascending minor sixth, chimed over and again with swelling fervor, caught just right by these Chameleons. Just right too for this piece, First Church in Boston’s space drove this foursome’s immaculate Mahler portrayal into memories of the heart. What they did with the big bursts in the single movement’s interior section showed their remarkable acumen for reviving Mahler’s early emotional flares. 

Together, First Church and Chameleon winds challenged the spunkier sides of Mládí (Youth) from Leoŝ Janácek. Just a little bit too much wetness in those acoustics slightly dulled the sharpness of the wind sextet. Seeking a way around that listening obstacle became part of getting as fully involved as possible. Nevertheless, Chameleons Boldin, Dimock, O’Connor, Gorczyca, Primis, and Sherts invited aural pleasures, timbral and musical alike, coming close to producing a real winner. Where a staccato was called for in the score, all kinds of interplay took flight. The Poulenc-like drifts in the Vivace resounded warmly, clearly. 

American conductor, pianist, and composer Jeremy Gill introduced his recent work “…and everywhere the sea.” He “emulated” the Janácek for its “never keeping you waiting.” Gill’s 12 brief depictions of the sea and sky found their inspiration during his residency at the Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy. “I lived in a beautiful mid-century home on the hillside overlooking the Ligurian Sea.” Clarinetist Gary Gorczyca and Vivian Choi paired off, their correspondence immediately obvious. Gill further described his writing as “spontaneous” and “impressionistic.” Gorczyca and Choi summoned those qualities with unflinching meticulousness. At first easy to follow along with movements, 1. Sea (pulling) 2. Sea (jewelry) 3. Sea (night), and so on, soon I wondered how many others, too, had lost their ways. The two Chameleons showered sonics on 12. Sky (moon).

Violinist Grace Park joined pianist Mika Sasaki in music for nobility, Violin Sonata No. 5 in F Major, Beethoven’s endearing Op. 24 “Spring.” In the Allegro’s recapitulation, the duo found each other more and more. Details of articulation, those expressive leaning and striking out-of-key notes, especially, called out for recognition. Timely restraints in the Adagio molto espressivo from Park and Sasaki secured Beethoven. They conveyed the darting Scherzo with increased shaping, continuing with the Rondo’s clear finale outlines in more confident and directed energy. Suspicion has it that in a few years’ time the two may find the finer tunings of Beethoven we have come to know through many iterations live and recorded.

Next up, Chameleon strings and piano joined in music for the ballet with an American touch, Darius Milhaud’s La Création Du Monde Suite. This version for piano quintet asks for a bit of work on the listener’s part, given no sexy saxophone or pulsating percussion. Plenty of cacophony, though, materialized with the four raucous strings. Sasaki gave bluesy nuances a la Gershwin voicings. I absolutely loved Woolweaver’s jazzy bent notes and slick short glisses. Why not that kind of inflecting La Création in place of unexpected seriousness overall taken by these ravishing soundmakers.

The entire evening of colorized old and new fascinated.

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).  www.notescape.net

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