Bach: Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor, BWV 1043
Mendelssohn: Octet in E-flat Major, Op. 20
As New York City’s official music season is slowly but surely coming to an end, I could not think of a better way to conclude mine than with Felix Mendelssohn’s unabashedly sunny Octet, another one of my favorite classical music pieces, but one that I do not get to hear very often, and certainly not as often as I’d like. The fact that it would be performed by Mark Peskanov and some members of the Manhattan Symphonie orchestra in the Bargemusic in Dumbo only added to the incentive, and I figured I just had to go.
My schedule got a little bit off track with a productive but hectic Saturday, but things eventually worked out, including a very quick but extremely enjoyable get-together with my friend Amy at the original Jacques Torres location because there’s nothing like a good old hot chocolate when it is a muggy 95 degrees outside.
In summer I always complain about the need to carry a cashmere sweater everywhere I go to protect myself against the AC’s sub-arctic temperatures, so it was with major relief that on Sunday I got to enjoy a short but sizzling concert in not only the intimate space, but also the totally civilized temperature, of the languorously floating music venue. Oh, and there’s always the fantastic view over Lower Manhattan in the background as an added bonus too.
Because Bach is unconditionally appreciated anytime anywhere, the performance started with his Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor, which allowed the eight string players on the stage to instantly jazz up the atmosphere of the full house. Cleverly combining Italian zest and German exactness, the brilliantly crafted work received an informed treatment that bristled with energy and savoir-faire.
Written when Mendelssohn had reached the ripe age of 16, his Octet brilliantly stands out for its mature artistry and youthful joie de vivre, which in his case were obviously not mutually exclusive. The composition is tightly woven and beautifully intricate, unquestionably showing that the precocious teenager had a decidedly uncommon gift for composition. Its highly infectious melodies and overall cheerful mood have also made it an instantly hummable classic that never gets old.
Mark Peskanov and the members of the Manhattan Symphonie orchestra delivered a vivacious and polished performance of it, expertly handling the technical challenges and spontaneously expressing feelings of joyful insouciance. Melodies unfolded, sparks flew, and it all ended up in a breathless race to the finish line. And then that was it. But that one blissful hour was more than enough to lift everybody's spirits with a welcome splash of virtuosic freshness on that hot Sunday afternoon in the barge with Felix.