Dutilleux work proves most intriguing in New World chamber opener

By David Fleshler

Members of the New World Symphony performed Henri Dutilleux's "Les Citations" Sunday at New World Center.

The New World Symphony’s chamber series opened Sunday in Miami Beach with a wide-ranging program that included an intense account of an atmospheric contemporary work.

The orchestra, which turns over about a third of its members every year as they go on to full-time jobs, engages in a shakeout of pre-season concerts and informal events before opening night. The chamber series, which offers the orchestra’s young musicians the opportunity to play in smaller ensembles, opened at New World Center in advance of Saturday’s sold-out opening-night symphony performance.

The most intriguing work on the program was Henri Dutilleux’s Les Citations. Consisting of two movements composed in 1985 and 1991, the music offers an otherworldly succession of melodies, passages and offbeat textures for the unusual combination of harpsichord, oboe, double bass and percussion. The instrumentation gave the work a new-old feeling, as Michael Linville on the harpsichord played Dutilleux’s eerie nocturnal harmonies over the shimmering sounds of gongs, xylophone and snare drums.

Percussionist Rajesh Prasad showed himself to be a virtuoso of his battery of instruments, looking as busy as a short-order cook as he did quick melodic riff on the xylophone, whipped around to tap his mallets on gongs before returning to face front and playing a few quick beats on the drums. With a wide range of tones — from crisp xylophone blows to subtler attacks on the gongs — he provided the work’s essential underlying texture without overpowering the other instruments.

Jennifer Christen did a fine job with the improvisational oboe part, long lines of melody that ranged from growls at the extreme lower register to screaming notes at the top. Brendan Kane on the double bass also grappled with music that took his instrument to the extremities of its range, displaying sure intonation and a bright clear sound as he ascended the fingerboard. Although the sum of the work’s parts wasn’t initially clear, this performance made you want to hear it again.

The young Spanish pianist Javier Perianes, who will play Schumann’s Piano Concerto Saturday night, collaborated in a performance of César Franck’s Piano Quintet. His smooth, elegant playing provided a strong foundation for an otherwise lackluster account. Through much of the performance, particularly the first movement, the string playing lacked the warm, rich sound to bring out the work’s luminous romanticism. Moments of fortissimo passion came off as raw and strident, and the sensuous passages of the first movement too often sounded hurried.

The concert opened with Rameau’s Fifth Concert from Pièces de Clavecin en Concerts, a 1741 work for violin, cello and harpsichord. Violinist Adrian Pintea brought remarkably clean playing to his part, despite its frequent leaps from string to string, playing with swift, light strokes appropriate to the period. Linville, the orchestra’s associate dean and director of chamber music, performed the harpsichord part with a sure touch that held the ensemble together. The highlight was the second movement, in which Pintea and cellist Marybeth Brown-Plambeck played the long, ornamented melody with warmth, style and no trace of heaviness.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Dutilleux work proves most intriguing in New World chamber opener”

  1. Posted Oct 10, 2011 at 6:29 pm by Karl Wiederwohl

    I really enjoyed Frank’s Piano Quintet. I thought it was a gutsy performance. This is a challenging piece for even established touring string quartets. Cheers to these five fantastic musicians, who had never performed as a quintet previously, for an inspiring performance!

Leave a Comment

Mon Oct 10, 2011
at 12:19 am
1 Comment