Works on the July 26 program of the Eastern Chamber Players made use of both woodwinds and strings, resulting in a satisfying evening of congenial music-making.
Samuel Barber's Summer Music, Op. 31, for woodwinds, was composed in the spirit of 18th- century serenades intended for outdoor performance. There is an impressionist quality to the score and a wonderful melodic line for the oboe. The ensemble consisted of flutist Brian Gordon, oboist Eric Olson, clarinetist Shannon Scott, bassoonist Cedric Coleman, and Kevin Reid, horn. The performance was well balanced and bubbled over with a sense of fun.
The Garden of Adonis, Op. 245, by Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000), featured Les Roettges, flute, and Anna Kate Mackle, harp. Extra-musical drama and atmosphere were added by bathing the stage in rose-colored lighting. Both players were bare-footed, and Roettges placed his music on the stage floor while he sat cross-legged on a large pillow. Hovhaness drew on Armenian religious sources and used a darkly-modal style that can be static and repetitive. Several of the six short movements featured the pentatonic scale and lovely, shimmering harp arpeggios.
Schubert's "Trout" Quintet is not a neglected work – its tunes fit the listener like a favorite sweater. Eastern Philharmonic principals - violist Barbara Hamilton, cellist Neal Cary, and bassist Leonid Finkelshteyn – joined guest violinist Julia Fischer and faculty pianist Gideon Rubin for one of the most satisfying performances I have heard to date. The tempos seemed just right. Rubin balanced the dynamics of his piano so he never covered the other players' musical lines. The blending of string sound was gorgeous. Finkelshteyn's bass produced the darkest low notes I can recall hearing in this work. This musical "comfort food" lacked nothing in technical precision.