Evening of chamber music is the perfect prescription

April 25, 1994|By Stephen Wigler | Stephen Wigler,Sun Music Critic

After several weeks that have included several loud, late-20th century symphonies and one grand opera, yesterday evening's program of chamber music in Friedberg Hall came as balm to overladen ears.

A late arrival did not permit this listener to listen to hornist Mary Bisson play a sonata by John Eccles or oboist Jane Marvine perform a Hindemith sonata. But he was able to hear Bisson join pianist Mary Woehr and soprano Janice Chandler for Schubert's "Auf dem Strom." This was a lovely performance in which the piano and horn were played with sufficient eloquence to be themselves heard as singing voices. Chandler, a young woman on the faculty of Margan State University, has a voice that may not be completely formed, but she sang the piece with affecting urgency.

After intermission, Marvine and Woehr performed Poulenc's Oboe Sonata. Marvine -- who is, like instrumentalists with whom she shared this program, a member of the Baltimore Symphony -- played this elusive work with mastery. She played the gay second movement with virtuosity and wit, but it was in the reflective first and third movements that she rose to moments of genuine meditative heights. The Oboe Sonata was the Frenchman's final work, and the composer himself described the last movement "as a sort of liturgical chant." It was with exactly suchemotional intensity that Marvine performed it.

The Poulenc was followed by Sigurd Berge's somewhat peculiar "Horn Lokk" for solo horn. This short piece essentially called for hornist Bisson to create a dialogue with herself, muting her instrument so that it sounded as if it were being heard over a great distance. The point of the piece was difficult to ascertain, but it was fun to hear this frustratingly difficult instrument played with such rock-solid mastery.

The final work was Carl Reinecke's Trio for Horn, Oboe and Piano. Reinecke is largely forgotten today, but this is a piece that creates magical contrasts of timbre, that shoots off sparks in a scherzo in which horn and oboe exchange volleys of notes and that concludes with a warmth that rivals Brahms and Schubert at near their best. Reinecke, who died at the age of 86 in 1910, was a terrific pianist -- older record collectors may know his extremely florid cadenzas for the Beethoven concertos because they were used by such pianists as Guiomar Novaes and Wilhelm Backhaus -- and it's no surprise that the pianist is kept busy in the trio. Woehr, a BSO violist who claims that the viola is her primary instrument, played as she had all evening -- with fleet-fingered and unfailingly intelligent grace and charm.

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