Saturday, June 10, 2006

From Ancient to Modern

Posted by Patrick Sharbaugh on Sat, Jun 10, 2006 at 4:38 PM

From music critic Lindsay Koob:

Don't let the fact that the final days of Spoleto are upon us lull you into artistic ennui quite yet -- there's still a lot going on. Betweeen the dual festivals, I caught a deligtful array of music both ancient and modern among Friday's events.

Piccolo's Early Music Series offered one of Steve Rosenberg's patented programs, "Instruments Through the Ages," at First (Scots) Presbyterian Church. Over the years, I've lost count of how many different old-time instruments Rosenberg can play -- and beautifully. We heard a baker's dozen of different "obsolete" noisemakers, in pieces ranging from the medieval music of the Spanish Jews to sophisticated gems of the high Baroque. Rosenberg's main trick was playing two recorders at once. Percussion whiz Danny Mallon drew a veritable symphony of sounds from a simple tambourine, plus other assorted drums. Julia Harlow offered spirited support on Charleston's finest harpsichord. Jose Lemos enchanted with his unique and emotion-laden countertenor voice. Pure pleasure.

The evening's Intermezzi series finale displayed mostly the talents of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra's woodwind players -- on the final descendants of some of the instruments I heard earlier. modern piano specialist Jenny Lin joined a band of assorted young virtuosos for Olivier Messiaen's Oiseaux Exotiques an avant-garde tour-de-force of stylized birdsong that makes you think you've just stepped into a huge aviary full of manic feathered friends. A varied battery of percussion assisted, and Music in Time director John Kennedy conducted. Then conductor Olivier Reboul (also a fabulous pianist) brought romantic-era relief, directing a lovely account of R&J composer Charles Gounod's elegant Petite Symphonie for Wind Instruments. Marc Williams emerged at the end to lead a jaunty and well-knit performance of Igor Stravinsky's Octet, a fearfully tricky neo-classical chamber gem.

Speaking of woodwinds, allow me to give belated credit where due here. Amid the heady festival fray, I neglected to tell you about last Monday's Piccolo go at Mozart's Gran Partita, the most ambitious (and greatest) piece he wrote for winds. Thirteen local worthies gathered at the Episcopal Cathedral under the banner of Charleston's soon-to-be-defunct Chamber Music Society of Charleston for a memorable last hurrah. With two of them playing real basset horns (the mellow-sounding ancestor of the clarinet), these players gave this sparkling masterpiece its full due, charming a churchful of happy listeners. They definitely blew out all the candles on Mozart's birthday cake.

Almost over? My feelings at the prospect are truly schizoid. I mentally scream "oh, NO" one moment -- and sigh "thank GAWD" the next. While my battered body and brain can surely use some long-overdue rest, something inside me is already counting the moments until next year.

-- LK

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