Music Review: American classical music is most diverseBy Jim Lowe
WATERBURY — American classical music isn’t limited to Gershwin and Sousa, as proved by a particularly imaginative program performed by the Eleva Chamber Players Saturday at the Congregational Church. (The program was repeated Sunday at the Barre Universalist Church.)
The Eleva Chamber Players, a professional ensemble of string players from here and around the region that come together each November for this pair of concerts, both introduced some less known masterworks and reveled in some popular ones.
Most moving was Samuel Barber’s masterpiece, “Dover Beach,” for baritone and strings. Thomas Beard, the guest soloist, delivered the lines of Matthew Arnold’s haunting poem with his rich, dark, warm and expressive baritone. He sensitively revealed the quiet drama and pathos of this deep work.
The 13 string players of Eleva played with the same rich and quiet drama. It was a particularly poignant performance. As an encore, Beard, with pianist Mary Jane, offered a richly beautiful “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” (Beard will sing the bass solos in the Vermont Philharmonic’s “Messiah” performances this year.)
The hit of the evening was “America” from Leonard Bernstein’s musical theater masterpiece, “West Side Story.” Joined by Austin on piano and Dov Schiller and Noah Shearer on percussion, Eleva delivered the sheer effervescence, dance rhythms and all, of this infectious music. There was real joy here.
And as encore, yes another encore, the aforementioned players, sans Austin, offered a thoroughly entertaining performance of the Leroy Anderson classic, “Fiddle Faddle.”
The concert’s biggest weakness was revealed by Arthur Foote’s Suite in E for Strings, Opus 63. While Eleva’s performance was spirited and enjoyable, it was under-rehearsed and lacked the precision to deliver its neo-Baroque style effectively.
Another joyful performance was William Grant Still’s “Danzas de Panama (Dances of Panama).” These rhythmic, but also lyrical, dances were delightful and infectious.
Lisa Jablow, assistant conductor of the Vermont Philharmonic, delivered short, pithy and effective program notes between selections. They added greatly to the enjoyment of the concert.MORE IN Central Vermont
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