The Theater Chamber Players have always paid particular attention to programming. Their concert at the Terrace Theater yesterday offered a splendid example of the added impact the group often gains from its carefully conceived musical juxtapositions.
Soprano Jeannette Walters opened with Ravel's "Two Hebraic Songs," giving dramatic shape to the chant-like "Kaddish" and an appropriately nasal edge to the ironic "The Eternal Question." These songs became the first part of a liturgy in which the following Berio pieces formed the expressive core. Taken from his "OPERA" of 1977, a stage work that centers on apocalyptic themes, "Agnus" and "E Vo'" are sung after the slaughter of a group of children has taken place. Both reflect Berio's capacity to create intricate and highly expressive textures by freely manipulating sounds, including the text, which is shattered into explosive bits of material.
"Agnus," built of fluttering clarinet and vocal particles, mostly in the higher range, forms a powerful image of life's fragility. "E Vo'" calls upon the darker mezzo-soprano color and includes poignant string colors to evoke a picture of deep human grief. Soprano Walters and mezzo-soprano Rose Taylor, with superb collaboration from the ensemble, gave the music a charged performance.
The condensed power of Barto'k's String Quartet No. 3, forcefully conveyed by a quartet from the group, seemed an extension of the Berio. A resolution of the afternoon's driving energies came after intermission in the warm, rich writing of Brahms' Sextet, Op. 18, given a glowing performance propelled by first violinist Pina Carmirelli.