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American Chamber Players: "Paris in the 20s"

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E. Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
Friday night, with visions of salons and the culturally haute part of that golden age, Dumbarton Concerts and the American Chamber Players presented a multifaceted concert called “Paris in the 20s.” An appealing premise, the program included excerpts from Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast, narrated by radio personality Martin Goldsmith, and recreations of choreography by Isadora Duncan. The opening work, a delightfully simple trio for flute, cello, and piano by Gabriel Pierné, exemplified the carefree air of the time and place. Unfortunately, the musicians began on unstable footing and never quite recovered. In fact, throughout the evening, and despite the ACP’s tight ensemble playing, cellist Alberto Parrini’s intonation was consistently off. Parrini was so off, in fact, that it seemed just plain odd given the caliber of musicianship and begged the question whether there were outside contributing factors. However, pianist Anna Stoytcheva and flutist Sara Stern played beautifully, and the communication among all three was exceptional.

Albert Roussel’s trio for flute, viola, and cello (op. 40) presented a light musical sentiment similar to the Pierné, and it was not until the meaty Martinů and the closing Fauré that the musicians really began to dig in. In the Martinů duo, violinist Joanna Maurer and cellist Parrini created some wonderfully lush sonorous effects, and in Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 (op. 45), the musicians were finally in their true element. The second half began with Carlos Rodriguez at the piano and “Duncan dancer,” Ingrid Zimmer, dancing to several of Chopin’s preludes in what was the true highlight of the evening. The choreography was Isadora Duncan’s own, passed down through generations of students and recreated beautifully by Zimmer. Evoking the beginnings of modern dance, Zimmer effectively whisked the audience to the setting of the program.

While the program on a whole clearly had much meticulous thought and care put into it, the musical programming was still not quite right. Fauré was clearly of an earlier period, and the two opening works by Pierné and Roussel were so similar in style that the concert began slowly and left one begging for another view of Paris. Each segment was fine enough on its own, but all together, with the quite long Hemingway extracts, and compounded by cellist Parrini’s technical issues, “Paris in the 20s” felt burdened: not quite how one imagines the decade in that wild cultural hub.

One concert remains this season at Dumbarton Concerts, an appearance by the Miró String Quartet (April 10, 8 pm), including string quartets by Mendelssohn and the extraordinary young Washington-area composer Tudor Dominik Maican.

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