A Taste of Eastern Europe

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Arco Voce, an ensemble whose specialties embrace 500 years of musical styles, brought a program of the music of Eastern Europe to the Phillips Collection on Sunday. Violinist Elizabeth Field, violinist/violist Nina Falk, cellist Douglas McNames, pianist/harpsichordist Steven Silverman and soprano Rosa Lamoreaux put together a fascinating collection that set off the Italianate idiom of the Polish Renaissance and early baroque against the regional ethnic flavors cultivated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by Bartok, Chopin and Dvorak.

They grouped the five small early works into a convincingly coherent cantata structure: an exuberant and highly ornamented harpsichord "Praeludium" by Podbielski, a somber "Concerto Primo" for strings and harpsichord by Jarzebski, a dancelike "Canzona Seconda a 2" by Mielczewski, an intricate canon by Buonamente (who spent much of his career in Poland), and a lovely motet, "Jesu Spes Mea" by Szarzynski, elegantly sung by Lamoreaux with careful attention to detail.

Surrounding this group were seven delightful duets for two violins by Bartok, rich in folk flavor and the energy of peasant dancing, four lovely Polish folk songs set by Chopin (and sung in impeccable Polish) and, to close out, a reading of the Dvorak Piano Quartet, Op. 87, that was as convincing in its vigor as it was in the sonorities of its more contemplative passages.

The performances were generally splendid and only the overly restrained participation of the harpsichord in the baroque group left anything to be desired.

-- Joan Reinthaler

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