Tord Gustavsen Trio
Tord Gustavsen, the Norwegian jazz pianist who performed with his trio at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Thursday night, isn't one to coast through a performance. Like Keith Jarrett, an apparent influence, Gustavsen prefers to sweat it out.
Sitting on the edge of the piano bench, he often appeared ready to leap to his feet, and sometimes did, the better to hammer away at resounding chords that rapidly alternated between left- and right-hand voicings or moved across the keyboard in surging, parallel motion. His trio may be known for its reflective themes and chamber jazz-like sonorities, but make no mistake: Gustavsen generates both physical power and emotional intensity in concert.
Thursday's performance opened on a signature, gospel-tinted note with "Tears Transforming," the first of several pieces composed by Gustavsen that began quietly, out of tempo, then slowly accrued texture and momentum. The pianist has little use for conventional song forms or round-robin jazz exchanges, but his lyrical flair and soulful bent kept the trio's performance from devolving into aimless, outre jazz.
Besides contributing most of the melodies, including the alluring ballad "Where We Went" and two new pieces yet to be recorded, the pianist was the trio's principal driving force, instigating shifts in mood, tempo and dynamics. Bassist Harald Johnsen and drummer Jarle Vespestad nevertheless played a key role, whether crisply accenting the chordal cadences, sustaining an undulating rhythmic undercurrent or engaging in subtle interplay. Small wonder the crowd, on its feet, demanded an encore.
-- Mike Joyce
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment
One of the miracles of music, Mozart's Wind Serenade in B-flat, K. 361 ("Gran Partita") received a loving performance from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment on Thursday evening at the Library of Congress. The effervescent British period-instrument ensemble allowed this masterpiece to unfold with a kind of piercing beauty that transmitted every bit of its glorious length, elegant proportions, and wonderfully appointed detail.
Original instruments and rapt playing allowed a listener to imagine that the music sounded close to its original 18th-century premiere. The more pungent and thinner sonority certainly did not cater to more full-bodied, modern tastes, but it was a welcome chance to hear some now obsolete but attractive instruments, including the valveless horn and the basset horn, which sounds with a diffuse golden tone and looks like a broken clarinet with a nozzle at the base.
The thoughtful yet flowing account balanced details and larger sweep. After the dark introduction, the work quickly moved into the more jovial moods. The two slow movements emerged with grace, a warm blending and deep mystery that underscored the vast emotional range of the piece. Yet it was the theme-and-variation movement that brought the account to a soaring apex, infused with melodic and textural perfection.
The concert included Anton Stadler's somewhat trifling Five Terzetti for basset horns. (Stadler is the wind player who inspired many of the Mozart's great wind works.) The basset horn trio also obliged the capacity audience with a stunning account of a 45-second fragment of Mozart's Adagio in F, K. 410.
-- Daniel Ginsberg