An outstanding program was presented in Smedes Parlor at St. Mary's School on September 17. The place was packed for the concert, which centered on the exceptional harpist Anita Burroughs-Price, of the NC Symphony, and her colleagues, Concertmaster Brian Reagin and Principal Cello Bonnie Thron. The bill of fare was mostly French, and the sponsors included L'Alliance Française and the A.J. Fletcher Foundation. Familiar and much-loved works were featured in the first half of the recital. The program began with Marin Marais' "La Sonnerie de Sainte-Geneviève du Mont de Paris," presented in a version for modern instruments that had a great deal going for it, in terms of variety in dynamics and expression, although the softer voices of the instruments for which it was intended might have resulted in a sense of greater intimacy.
Fauré's Impromptu was Burroughs-Price's only solo offering, but it was grandly played and warmly and enthusiastically applauded. Following this came the Sonate, for violin and cello, by Ravel. The work, which was dedicated to Debussy's memory, remains a hard sell for many listeners, for it is, as our colleague Marvin J. Ward's program notes reminded us, Stravinsky-like in many respects. Reagin and Thron threw themselves into it, delivering an interpretation that was more brusque and forceful (and, especially on the violinist's part, louder and more uneven in tone) than many we have heard, one that to these ears did not consistently capture the magic of the piece.
Following a brief intermission (during which a surprisingly large portion of the audience escaped), the evening's artistic jewel was heard. This was Castelnuovo-Tedesco's Sonata, for cello and harp, which was (Ward's notes again reminded us) rediscovered by the Mallarmé Chamber Players' Anna Ludwig Wilson, who found it gathering dust in the Library of Congress. It's not "French," but as we have often noted, many great "French" works are by composers who weren't born there, and this one fit nicely into the evening's overall context. The playing was exquisite, and during the performance, the close artistic rapport shared by Thron and Burroughs-Price was at every point apparent.
The dazzling Fantasie, for violin and harp, by Saint-Saëns, brought the evening to its formal close. In this, the NCS' virtuoso Concertmaster seemed to dominate the proceedings, and the nominal star of the show reverted to a bit of noteworthy accompanying. The enthusiastic response led to an encore, given by the trio. 'Twas the famous "Meditation," from Massenet's Thaïs, played for all it is worth and then some. The audience seemed to go away enraptured, which was in all likelihood precisely the point.