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Kennedy Center Chamber Players at the Terrace Theater

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • October 13, 2014

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players can always be counted on for intriguing programming and virtuosic playing, and Sunday afternoon’s season-opening concert at the Terrace Theater was no exception. Juxtaposing three works by Debussy, Charles Ives and Camille Saint-Saëns — all written within a decade of each other yet all strikingly different — the ensemble opened a window into the musical crosscurrents at play in the early 20th century, as modernism was slowly gathering steam.

The Kennedy Center Chamber Players include Lambert Orkis, David Hardy, Marissa Regni and Daniel Foster. (Margot Ingoldsby Schulman)The group is made up of players from the National Symphony Orchestra. The afternoon provided a welcome opportunity to hear Adriana Horne, the orchestra’s fine, new principal harpist, in a more intimate setting. With Aaron Goldman on flute and Daniel Foster on viola, Horne delivered a refined, sensual reading of Debussy’s Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp from 1915, a work of delicate hues and elusive, ambiguous ideas, like a dream in a perfumed garden. The playing was impeccable (Goldman’s rich, flavorful tone is always a pleasure), although to these ears, the performance often felt a little too considered, even a bit earthbound, and it lacked the spontaneity and weightlessness, and the elegant savagery just below the surface, that brings this work to life.

Ives’s three-movement Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano was written just a few years earlier than the Debussy, but it seems to come from a different planet entirely. As robust and earthy as the Debussy is delicate, the piece is built around a scherzo that explodes with wild, what-the-hell exuberance. But the work’s real heart is its profoundly spiritual closing movement, and the ensemble — violinist Marissa Regni, with David Hardy on cello and Lambert Orkis at the piano — turned in a fearless reading, as authentic and probing as you could ever hope to hear.

Regni and Horne returned for Saint-Saëns’s “Fantaisie” for Violin and Harp, Op. 124, from 1907. The piece is not exactly a searing look into the composer’s soul — pretty much the opposite, in fact — but it provided a gentle, lyrical respite before the closing work of the afternoon, Beethoven’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D, Op. 70. Known as the “Ghost” trio for its eerie middle movement, it received an evocative, richly detailed and utterly convincing reading, from the extroverted outer movements to the strange and ominous Largo at its core.

Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at 10:00AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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