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Once again, the Porter Center's Scott Concert Hall hosted BMC's chamber music series with what is quietly becoming one of the season's premier student groups. This all-student string chamber orchestra, coached by veteran BMC string faculty, performed an all-Baroque program during the final week. It was a prestigious gig for repeat campers who have the chops and are committed. With faculty members performing as featured soloists and sixteen orchestra players, most standing, there was plenty of "going to school" for everyone. Their coach this year was violinist Byron Tauchi from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
First up was a quick Concerto in B-flat for violin and cello by Antonio Vivaldi, played by Margaret Baldridge and Pablo Mahave, respectively. It is very straightforward sawing-away string music with nice dotted figures in the middle movement, although it seemed to fall off the rails at one point. There are big and stout parts for everyone in the third movement. Overall, it was wonderfully in tune and everybody arrived at the cadence on time.
Next came J. S. Bach and the Concerto in D minor for oboe and violin, S.1060, with Eric Ohlsson and J. Patrick Rafferty doing the solo work. Again we have the typical fast-slow-fast arrangement but with more substantive writing. It was beautifully performed, too. The down side was an electric "device" representing a harpsichord. Here Katherine Murray did all anyone could ever ask, but we couldn't distinguish that instrument among the mix or enjoy enough volume to really hear her work. Therein is yet another lesson for the string players to learn. (For the sake of space, click here to see a rant regarding the horror of E-keyboards.)
After intermission we came back to Vivaldi with the Concerto in E minor for bassoon, RV.484, with William Ludwig, soloist. His performance was classic chamber style: he directed the group's rubati with body language and phrased with a bob and a weave with the instrument through the air. Playing a recent (two year old) German Moosmann bassoon, his tone and timbre through all registers was nicely balanced and attractive to the ear.
The final work featured just the kids. Concerto No. 5 in D, HWV 323, by George Frideric Handel, is in six movements and was directed by the Concertati core: Kristen Zimmerman and Stephen Yang, violins, and Jenna McCreery, cello. They held the whole thing together beautifully. It was always in tune, and the general playing was superb. Their unified attack during one pizzicato section was particularly effective. When it was finished, the full crowd stood and cheered.
This late ensemble is yet one more gem of the BMC that is beginning to take a larger role in the season's offerings. Yes, it is all baroque era but that's not so bad when the variety is balanced and played so well. Last year at this concert I had a revelation about why the baroque era ended. Everyone wanted it to.
This year the kids held their own in a way that makes me want to hear more.