Kennedy Center Chamber Players
"If there is a theme in today's program," pianist Lambert Orkis told the audience before the season's final performance by the Kennedy Center Chamber Players, "it would be joy." The first two works presented by National Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Nurit Bar-Josef, principal cellist David Hardy and principal keyboardist Orkis certainly burst with good feeling.
The Players relished the dramatic possibilities of Mozart's Piano Trio in E, K. 542, providing decorous ornaments on repeats and a riveting account of the forceful first-movement development section. But the simple grace of the Andante grazioso also came through clearly, with sparkling articulation from Orkis.
Bar-Josef took a break next, while Hardy and Orkis essayed Bohuslav Martinu's Third Cello Sonata. Martinu certainly packed the sonata with striding, sunny melodies and dramatic run-ups to more striding, sunny melodies, but one couldn't help wishing the incident would subside long enough for more of a structure to emerge. Hardy and Orkis made what was there exciting, with Hardy's big tone a particular asset.
There's not much joy, though, in Brahms's First Piano Trio -- Brahms rewrote most of the trio late in life, and its happinesses seem clouded by all the regrets of age. The Players beautifully expressed the trio's bittersweet ardor without drowning in it, and the growing anger of the last movement was devastating in their hands. The joy that unified the program, then, came from accomplished orchestral musicians playing works they normally don't get to play with each other, and playing them well indeed.
-- Andrew Lindemann Malone
Cathedral Choral Society
There are some pieces of music so worthy of a wide audience that their neglect in the concert hall seems downright criminal. At the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday, conductor J. Reilly Lewis and his Cathedral Choral Society afforded a rare opportunity to hear one of them, the large-scale vocal work "In Terra Pax," by 20th-century Swiss composer Frank Martin.
With a very strong cast of soloists -- soprano Arianna Zukerman, mezzo Eleni Matos, tenor Daniel Snyder and baritones Stephen Powell and Sanford Sylvan -- and with the cathedral's acoustics lending orchestra and chorus a reverential glow, Martin's elegiac meditation on war couldn't have had a more moving effect. The biblically based "In Terra Pax" is a sober hunk of music but also a gorgeous one, its blend of medievalism, romantic melody and neoclassical angularity bringing to mind composers from Bartok to Britten, Vaughan Williams to Weill -- yet with a dark allure all its own.
Commemorating this week's dedication of the National World War II Memorial, the concert interpolated recordings of key wartime speeches by Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, as well as a narration by war-wounded former senator Bob Dole, to largely stirring effect. And, in a rare appearance as a curtain-raiser, Mozart's Requiem received a lovely and respectful performance, though the long delay of the acoustics necessitated slow tempos and quasi-romantic phrasing uncharacteristic of an authenticist like Lewis.
-- Joe Banno