It wasn’t obvious why the intrepid string orchestra A Far Cry called its Friday Jordan Hall concert “Long Gaze.” The phrase connotes something steady and unflinching, and most of the music on the program was too mercurial for that. Only the high caliber of musicianship was so constant, and that is something listeners have grown accustomed to at this ensemble’s performances.
A better title might have been “Things Aren’t Always What They Seem.” Take the concert’s opener: the world premiere of Boston-based composer John McDonald’s “Gentle But Uneasy Dance Music,” commissioned for A Far Cry by Ruth Gessner Shocken, an early and vigorous supporter of the group who passed away last year. It’s a skillful and involving piece, permeated by languid melodies and unsettled harmonies, but there’s almost nothing in it that you’d think of dancing to (uneasily or not). Its emotional center is in its third movement, a poignant nocturne written in Shocken’s memory. Indeed, the piece as a whole has an introspective feel that’s about as far removed from a social gathering like a dance as imaginable.