Saturday afternoon’s concert at the Maverick was a gift from the muse—to the audience, to the ensemble, to the players, to the hall. The Caroga Arts Ensemble (Kyle Price, director) have become annual visitors at the Maverick from their base in the Adirondacks, at Caroga Lake. Alexander Platt, music director of the Maverick, conducted.
The choice of repertoire on Saturday evening was matchless; Maverick audiences don’t often get to hear Mahler, Schoenberg, and Bach, composers whose output of classical chamber music is minimal. Platt chose to open with a rarely heard piece by a composer whose music is frequently on the Maverick docket, however, Mozart’s great Adagio and Fugue in C Minor, K. 546. The Caroga Artists leaned in to this deeply affecting work, evoking all of its grandeur, sorrow, and intellectual rigor. It didn’t last long, but it set the stage for the delights still to come in the afternoon. The ensemble grabbed the audience at the opening tutti, with its gesture rooted in the past, a very short ouverture in the baroque manner. The basses got the fugue going, with the dramatic downward motif of the primary theme. The tempo was slightly slower than we’ve heard it, but that shifted the emphasis from the complexity of the strict fugue to the gravitas of the whole.
The fourth movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Adagietto, is frequently heard on its own, apart from the rest of the work, but it is generally performed by the strings of a full-sized orchestra. Platt’s determination to present it scored for a chamber orchestra was auspicious. The effect was not at all as if from a downsized ensemble, but was poignant, lush, and accessible, commanding attention all the way through with its serenity and sense of longing. We found ourselves breathing along with the heartfelt phrasings. Bravo!
Another deeply moving work, Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht (“Transfigured Night”), was transcribed from string sextet to string orchestra by the composer. Platt’s nuanced direction captured the nobility and the richness of this chamber tone poem and wrought its transfiguration within the hall to a great show of gratitude at the end.
Then Simone Dinnerstein, “a unique voice in the forest of Bach interpretation,” according to the NYT, took center stage (and conductor’s role) with Bach’s Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, BWV 1052, and completed the Baroque circle begun with the Adagio and Fugue. In this glorious performance of a familiar work, Dinnerstein’s steadfastly brilliant pianism and the Caroga orchestra’s ardent and unfailing narration carried the music—and the concert—to a dazzling conclusion.
Mary Fairchild lives in Rosendale, New York, after a long career as a host at WQXR, WNYC, WMHT (Schenectady), and WPLN (Nashville). She has for some 20 years been writing program notes for Vladimir Feltsman’s PianoSummer at New Paltz. Before being called by Kalliope, the Muse of Eloquence and of Writing About Music, she worked as a financial editor and manager of investor relations in Wall Street.