Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New York Classical Players - Bach & du Bois - 11/17/13

Conductor: Dongmin Kim
Bach: Concerto for Oboe and Violin in C Minor, BWV 1060
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041
Alexandra du Bois: Noctilucent Song for String Orchestra
Bach: Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, BWV 1043
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 2 in E Major, BWV 1042
Bach: Air on a G string for Orchestral Suite No. 3, BWV 1068

It is hard to imagine a better way to wrap up a busy musical week than in the company of the stellar New York Classical Players and the eternal Bach. The prolific German composer for sure churned out enough memorable works to keep orchestras and audiences happily busy forever, and somehow I had always thought that his formidable œuvre would be a perfect fit for the fearless strings of the New York Classical Players. So this concert was definitely in the not-to-be-missed category on my calendar. The weather was gray and wet on Sunday afternoon, but that was really no reason to renounce walking up Broadway to the minimalist and intimate Broadway Presbyterian Church in Morningside Heights.

Although the NYCP orchestra is well-known for its impeccable strings, the concert's first piece welcomed the addition of an oboe for Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin. That special guest made itself immediately at home by seamlessly joining the ever-tight ensemble and whimsically striking out on its own from time to time. From the very first notes, the mood was immediately festive as we were brilliantly transported right into early 18th century Germany.
Bach's Violin Concerto No. 1 is a work overflowing with enchanting melodies that would have made Vivaldi proud. On Sunday, it received the royal treatment in the hands of the orchestra, which completely succeeded in bringing out its elegance and high-spiritedness.
For the contemporary break of the performance, Alexandra du Bois and her ethereal "Noctilucent Song for string orchestra", which had been commissioned by the NYCP, had the tremendous honor of sharing the program with Bach. Inspired by the thin clouds occasionally found in high altitude at night, the inconspicuously atmospheric piece conjured up ideas of serene beauty and intense sadness, which were superbly conveyed by the musicians. The composer, who was in the audience, must have been extremely pleased.
Back to Bach, we doubled our pleasure with his Double Concerto for Two Violins, during which the two soloists engaged in an animated, warm and always courteous conversation that would not falter for even a second. Together with the orchestra they created a complex tapestry that ended in a perfectly balanced finish.
Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 2 probably owes it lasting popularity to an intoxicating mix of carefree exuberance and delicate poignancy. Accordingly, the playing from orchestra and soloist was by turn joyful, melancholic and refined, pointedly expressing the wide range of emotions of the composition and strongly emphasizing the timeless appeal of the work by the same token.
Thoughtfully dedicated to the people of The Philippines, the beautifully elegiac “Air on a G String” concluded the concert on a moving and exquisite note.

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