For its concert yesterday afternoon at the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore featured three musicians who have tirelessly promoted the music of our time -- English hornist Thomas Stacy and oboists Bert Lucarelli and James Ostryniec.
The three internationally known performers carry impeccable credentials. Mr. Stacy, principal English hornist with the New York Philharmonic, has premiered important concertos by such composers as Vincent Persichetti and Bernard Hoffer. Mr. Lucarelli recorded John Corigliano's acclaimed oboe concerto for RCA and is the recipient of an NEA Solo Recitalists Fellowship. Mr. Ostryniec, familiar to Baltimore audiences as associate principal oboist with the BSO, maintains an extensive touring and recording schedule throughout the world.
The three performers appeared as soloists in world premieres of three pieces written especially for them -- Conrad Susa's "Six Songs" for oboe and harpsichord (1990), Ross Lee Finney's "Divertimento" for oboe, piano and percussion (1990) and Gunther Schuller's "Five Impromptus" for English horn and string quartet (1989).
Mr. Susa's "Six Songs" was a delightful set of miniatures in an accessible harmonic style, and was performed with wonderful elan by Mr. Lucarelli. However, the effectiveness of this work was sometimes diminished by sudden appearances of popular dance rhythms -- such as the tango -- which neither fit the context of Mr. Susa's pungent harmonic idiom nor his own elastic and imaginative rhythmic style.
By contrast, Mr. Finney's "Divertimento" was remarkably cogent. His music is most powerful in its slow movements, which possess an individual and luminescent intensity. Mr. Ostryniec with pianist Lisa Goldman Weiss and percussionist Christopher Williams were compelling in their mastery of this extraordinarily visionary score.
The most impressive work on the program was Mr. Schuller's "Five Impromptus." Improvisatory in nature, the work explored a wide variety of moods from the austere desolation of its first movement to the capricious outbursts of its fourth.
The performance, by Mr. Stacy, violinists Kenneth Goldman and Mata Matsumoto, violist Noah Chaves, and cellist Paula Skolnick-Virizlay, was first-rate, fiery and virtuosic.
As is customary for the Chamber Music Society, new music takes its place alongside old. The traditional repertoire that framed yesterday's concert -- two virtuoso trios for oboes and English horn written by Ludwig van Beethoven in the 1790s -- proved a suitable vehicle for these three world-class artists.