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All Points West at the Atlas Performing Arts Center

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • September 28, 2014

The relaxed, almost casual recital on Saturday night by All Points West — a young chamber music collective of D.C. area musicians — opened with an invitation you don’t usually hear in the concert hall: Turn on your cellphone, update your Facebook page and tweet to your heart’s content. It’s part of the group’s philosophy of “breaking down the barriers” between performers and audiences, and to that admirable end the space at the Atlas Performing Arts Center was outfitted with café tables and chairs, the players sat more-or-less in the laps of the audience, and at least one listener arrived with a bottle of wine.

Igor StravinskyIt was a pleasant change from the often starchy conventions of classical music, and a fitting launch to the all-night Nuit Blanche DC arts festival taking place across the city. And the program — two youthful works by Sergei Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky, written in Paris in the anything-goes years after World War I — was well chosen too, balancing Parisian sophistication with Russian earthiness. So far, so good.

But informality has its pitfalls, and in the middle of the opening movement of Prokofiev’s intricate “Quintet in G minor, Op. 39,” a dozen latecomers wandered in and stumbled around for seats as the musicians played — grounds for justifiable homicide at the Kennedy Center, and a reminder that formality can sometimes be a good thing. More important, the ensemble itself seemed not to take the performance all that seriously. Despite enthusiastic playing from several of the musicians, it was a plain and not very subtle performance — more of a quick run-through than a thoughtful interpretation — marred by ragged entrances, squishy intonation, almost no dynamic nuance and only occasional attention to detail.

The second half of the evening was given over to Stravinsky’s earthy, iconic “L’Histoire du Soldat” (“The Soldier’s Tale”), a music-theater work for seven players and narrator written in 1918. It’s the kind of piece that an imaginative young ensemble can really make their own — the music is fixed, but the many theatrical aspects are all up for grabs. All Points West dispensed with the theatrics, though, settling again for a basic, rough-and-ready reading of the score — full of enthusiasm and fun to listen to, but not much more than that.


Posted on Friday, October 3, 2014 at 01:20PM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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