Vienna is a city that laughs and cries at the same time, as the string ensemble A Far Cry demonstrated Sunday afternoon in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s new Calderwood Hall. Ranging from the 17th century (Johann Heinrich Schmelzer) to the 20th (Alban Berg and Arnold Schoenberg), with a stop in between for Mozart, the program plumbed emotional depths but never lost its sparkle.
A sense of play was evident throughout. Schmelzer’s “Die Fechtschule’’ - one of some 150 ballets he composed for Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I - incorporates a fencing match into its penultimate movement. Prior to that, the robust, full-bodied Far Cry strings had served up a nimble Sarabanda and a poignant Courente, and the “Fechtschule’’ itself was full of parry and thrust, before the waltz-like minuet of the concluding Bader Aria, in which the participants get patched up.