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Live Music around the Bloch

Gary Poster and Karyn FriedmanMusica Viva, one of the many smaller performing arts organizations in the Washington area – oft overlooked but more often than not contributing greatly to the regions’ cultural life, gave a very generous program last Tuesday, May 23, at the Ratner Museum in Bethesda.

Musica Viva, anchored by pianist and Executive Director Carl Banner, is essentially a piano-with-strings quintet with guest artists. Tuesday the guests were husband-and-wife vocalists Gary Poster, bass, and Karyn Friedman, mezzo-soprano, both with Eastman School degrees. This is an impressive pair: Mr. Poster, accompanied by string quartet and Mr. Banner as continuo (on piano), gave a lyrical, well-phrased account of Bach’s Ich habe genug. Bach’s long-lost original with soprano sax (played eloquently but a bit forcefully by Rhonda Buckley) in place of oboe was used (maybe not 'original,' but Bach was never shy about transcribing his own, or others’, music). Fans of the “historically authentic” approach may question it, but this ‘bass-and-sax’ version was nice enough on the ears.

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E. Bloch, Piano Quintets, Ivan Klánský / Kocian Q4t
Ms. Friedman, an attractive, skilled singer, sang Fauré’s cycle La Bonne Chanson, recently admired by Charles when Ian Bostridge performed it at the Library of Congress, with warmth and style. While the piano didn’t break through in the concluding Quintet No. 1 by Ernest Bloch, there was no mistaking the fact that Mr. Banner and the quartet really let loose here. The Bloch is a knotty, dense, multilayered work, built of melodic fragments and long rhythmic lines but with a tight, intense structure. The opening Agitato has moments that recall native American music, and the work does date from the composer’s first sojourn in the US, his adopted country. The Andante mistico was sinewy and eloquent in Musica Viva’s hands, and the ensemble let rip in the concluding Allegro energico with almost Bartókian, stunning, intensity.


jfl said...

You have officially out-bad-punned me with that title. Even "Raff Treatment of Bach" (or whatever it was) does not compare!

george pieler said...

Is that overpunning, or underpunning? A temporary moratorium may be in order.