The Christ Lutheran Church in Aptos is a most delightful venue for chamber concerts. On Sunday, February 16, The Santa Cruz Chamber players presented just such a concert. One aspect of the setting is immediately noticeable and that is the audience appears to be of one large supportive family. They mingle, chat and interact in a most positive way. Five works filled the afternoon with music: Shaker Spiritual Set by Barry Phillips (1955-); Variations on a Slovak Folksong by Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959), Bearbeitung ueber das Glogauer Liederbuch by Charles Wuorinen (1938-); two selections from Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano by Claude Bolling (1930-) and the Premier of Threads of Time by Barry Phillips. The very capable musicians were Lars Johannesson, flute/piccolo and Director of the ensemble; Jeff Gallagher Bb clarinet/bass clarinet, Natalie Carducci violin, Amy Brodo cello, Susan Bruckner piano and Barry Phillips drums.
The Shaker Spiritual Set consisted of six rearranged melodies for flute, clarinet, violin and cello. The original melodies were sung by the Shakers and without harmony as we know it. The first of six opened with a drone on the cello, followed by the clarinet, then flute and violin that developed into a delightful four-part harmonization ending with the cello drone once again. Arguably all six works were composed with a “spiritual, hymn-like” setting in mind. Several musically rich sound textures were explored by Phillips in both this work and his Threads of Time. Moments in which instrumental pairings such as flute and clarinet, violin and cello and flute and cello comprised the overall musical texture.
The Martinu work was very well realized with Suasan Bruckner on piano and Amy Brodo on cello. (Czecho)Slovakia was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918) and under the direct influence of the Hungarians, the Slovak language was not allowed to be spoken in public in favor of the ruling Hungarian authority. Both Slovak and Hungarian music are quite closely related and at times barely distinguishable musically speaking. Both Bruckner and Brodo rendered a wonderful musical interpretation of these five variations and their dynamic balance was especially noteworthy.
Bolling’s two selection Suite for flute, (jazz) piano, cello and drums was very well performed and received by the audience. The Baroque and Blue was realized under the musical umbrella of a Minuet that nicely flowed into a jazz texture with the cello providing the bass line in pizzicato. A well performed and enjoyed piece.
The Premiere work by Phillips was again based on antiquity in four parts. The Robertsbridge was based on a work from around 1350; the Bell at St. Reinoldi was based the impressive bells of a church in Dortmund, Germany; the Preambulum on an organ work dating from Germany around 1450 and fourth and final selection, Anglesey from harp piece from the 1100s. The four compositions stayed within the normal range of the flute, clarinet, cello and piano and left the exploration of harmonics or special effects these wonderful instruments have to offer to the imagination of the listener. I don’t see how a Sunday afternoon could be better spent than listening to these talented musicians perform enjoyable music.
JOSEF SEKON, D.M.A.