Simply entering the yellow and pale oranges warmth of the First Church Congregational in Cambridge on a grey, rainy afternoon made for an auspicious beginning for Sunday’s Boston Chamber Music Society concert. Eric Nathan’s Just a Moment for two distant, antiphonal oboes lived up to its title, coming across as a dialogue separated by space. Peggy Pearson standing on stage center and Jennifer Slowik high in the rear balcony, matched well in musical temperament and in sound. One oboe begins joined on the same note by the second oboe. They dance and intermingle, sometimes in dissonance, sometimes in consonance and as in the beginning, sometimes on the same note, and sometimes just one instrument alone. The sense of real counterpoint made clear a debt to Bach, but this was no mere homage. Nathan has clearly moved beyond the dissonance of the late-20th century to a place of greater beauty.
The Divertimento for String Trio in E flat Major, K 563 Mozart’s first in that genre, is also one of the first “grand trios.” The six-movement work opens in unison with all three instruments playing a descending E flat chord note by note. The piece should soon take off, but this performance did not. Yes, the beginning is expansive, but then let life enter. The violinist Ayano Nimomiya opened valiantly, but violist Marcus Thompson did not match her intensity. Neither player projected Mozartean delight. The wonderfully musical cellist Raman Ramakrishnan never plays a note that is not thought out and placed just so. I found myself wondering how much the players had argued out their musical ideas. The whole thing mostly seemed to be on auto pilot. Joyous interplay between the violin and the viola went completely missing. The contrapuntal writing that shows up later in this movement lacked direction. The lyrical cello opening of the adagio was beautiful. Ramakrishnan has the most wonderful line here! It is the kind of thing that he does so well. Ninomiya would do well to let her phrases breathe more, to give more space at the top of the line, following Ramakrisnan’s lead. Ramakrishnan returned later in the movement with the theme a bit embellished, and even more elegant, than in is initial statement. After the Adagio, they lost my attention.
Peggy Pearson and Jennifer Slowik oboes, Rane Moore and Hunter Bennett clarinets, Jason Snider and Rachel Childers Frecch horns, Adrian Morejon and Gina Cuffari bassoons took to the stage for Mozart’s Serenade for Wind Octet in C Minor K. 388. For Mozart, c minor is a dramatic key ― witness the Piano Fantasy and Sonata in C Minor. That carried through in this serenade, but when the sun shone, it gleamed! The opening felt appropriately dramatic and operatic. Kudos to the bassoon players who really carried the motion in the inner voices. Person played her role as concert mistress with style and vigor. These musicians had come to some wonderful agreements about their joint traversal. I left the hall with the joyful last movement theme in my head to face a day where the gloom had lifted.