A few days ago an article in these pages sang the praises of the Brussels Chamber Orchestra and discussed its latest appearance in the Triangle area, Cary in particular. It’s now time to stress a bit more strongly the significance of their visits here. These thirteen string players, each one a musician of “star” quality, are making their fourth annual appearance in these parts. They provide mentoring for many young players. They collaborate with musicians from the North Carolina Symphony. They invite music lovers to numerous free open rehearsals. And during this two-week stay they produce concerts featuring truly world-class artistry. Many thanks to the members of the BCO and their local sponsors for so honoring this area.
It has become a bit of a cliché to say that a program offered something for everyone. But this one featured both ends of a wide spectrum. There was the venerable Four Seasons of Vivaldi (1678-1741), whose four sections were interlaced with the movements of yet another Four Seasons in tango style by Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992). Thus were the players inspired to lend the title “Eight Seasons” to their concert.
Featured as soloist and leader was the widely acclaimed young Belgian violinist, Lorenzo Gatto. Here is a dazzling and prize-winning artist of lofty potential. His dramatic and animated demeanor complements his memorable playing skills. (Fantasize for a moment that the young Franz Liszt had been a violinist.) Although his virtuosity was certainly formidable, Gatto seemed perhaps at his best with the discipline called for in the Adagio and Largo passages. Particularly pleasing was his work in the Adagio e piano movement of Vivaldi’s Concerto No 2 in G minor, “L’Estate” (Summer). Some in the audience had probably heard certain of those Vivaldi movements a hundred times, but this soloist and players brought a fresh quality to them.
Joining the BCO for the baroque sections of the program was harpsichordist Beverly Biggs. Her marvelous dexterity was featured prominently in the slow movement of the Vivaldi “L’Autunno” (Autumn) concerto. Alas, though, much of her fine contribution was lost among all the strings (perhaps the harpsichord should have been moved up front). Her “sneak” baroque pianissimo contribution at the conclusion of the Piazzolla “Primavera Porteña” (Spring) provided an effective, humorous and imaginative touch.
The Piazzolla versions of the four seasons were major (near full-house) crowd pleasers. This composer has surged in popularity in recent years. Gatto was again masterly as soloist and director of these works. Sharing star billing with him on the “Otoño Porteño” (Autumn) was BCO cellist Mario Villuendas.
Here was an exceptional artistic offering in the equally exceptional new (old) Cary Arts Center, accompanied by uncommon audience enthusiasm. In her introductory remarks, Cary Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival director Carrie Knowles suggested that the program could have been called “Baroque Meets Undanceable Tango.” On this evening the two styles were well met.