"Music for Wind Instruments" was the New World Players Chamber Orchestra's program on Saturday, but a keyboard player was the evening's star.
Playing the piano solo in Janacek's Capriccio, with Stephen Robert Kleiman conducting, Anne Schein shone at the National Academy of Sciences.
It was the centerpiece of a concert displaying the ensemble's tremendous depth and versatility, in a program of difficult 20th-century music from Ross Lee Finney to Henry Brant, with Erich Korngold's pleasant "Much Ado About Nothing" making for a suite dessert.
Part slavic celebration, part digital gymnastics, the Janacek ranks with Ravel's daunting concerto in left-handed piano literature. In the give and take between piano and orchestra--and within the piano part itself--Janacek demands hairpin turns, abrupt shifts from fire to ice (Schein sometimes resembling someone playing a bed of hot coals). There are also contrasting moments of gentle lyricism, and solos for flute and tenor tuba.
Displaying impressive dexterity, Schein missed but a few of many murderous notes, but caught completely the music's spirit and emotion. In the Allegro, she and the orchestra were microscopically out of register--making the dissonances sound more edgy than usual--but such matters had been settled by the final Andante. Kleiman, meanwhile, won a generally well-articulated performance from his players.
Finney's fractious "Variations on a Memory" got a highly polished reading; while the group, especially the percussion section, brought out the primal violence of Brant's "Signs and Alarms."