A Theater Chamber Players program always guarantees a high level of informed musical communication. As yesterday afternoon's concert at the Terrace Theater demonstrated, one need not even agree with every interpretation to be assured of a stimulating experience.
Central to this success is the balance of content that is usually brilliantly conceived. Yesterday, the urbanity of Britten and Debussy was contrasted with the intensity of Webern and Holliger A final blessing was supplied by Schubert's heavenly String Quintet.
The vocal cantata, "Erde und Himmel," by the contemporary Swiss oboist and composer, Heinz Holliger, proved profoundly moving. Given a strong performance by tenor James McDonald and members of the ensemble under conductor Leon Fleisher, the work employs trembling fragments of sound to convey the void that marks the beginning and end of life. Webern's "Five Movements for String Quartet," closely related in spirit and technique to the Holliger, received an equally charged performance, except for the last movement when the intensity level dropped inexplicably.
Debussy's violin and piano sonata fared less well, primarily because the playing by violinist Pina Carmirelli and pianist Dina Koston was too intense. For its beauty to be fully realized, the music requires a certain abandonment to chance, and both musicians are far too disciplined for even a semblance of whimsy.
The afternoon closed on a soaring note with Schubert's unique vision of the world beyond, a transcendent glory in total contrast to the bleakness of Holliger's vision. With special energy from cellist Evelyn Elsing, whose interchanges with Carmirelli in the second movement were radiant, the ensemble gave an inspired performance.
The program will be repeated tonight at 7:30. It is well worth hearing.