If the Faneuil Hall audience had gotten a nickel for every note spun by virtuoso flutists Saturday it would have left with buckets full. But the news of the night centered on actual cash, or lack of it, with an announcement before intermission that Boston Classical Orchestra will cut its 2014-15 subscription season basically in half, dropping Saturdays from its established Saturday-Sunday pairings schedule.
Musically, the BCO’s 2013-14 season-closing program Saturday was a showcase for solo flutists, and the display of trills, rapid-fire tonguing drills, and finger gymnastics was astonishing. The concert, repeated Sunday, was headlined by Catalan flutist Claudi Arimany, a protégé of the modern world’s first celebrity flutist, Jean-Pierre Rampal. Alan Weiss, a BCO member since 1987, partnered with Arimany in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Flutes in C major (RV 533) and Doppler’s Concerto for Two Flutes in D minor.
True to Rampal’s legacy, Arimany brought a clear, pure tone distinguished particularly in the flute’s highest register. Weiss matched Arimany’s sound neatly across all registers; both flutists play gold instruments from the Wm. S. Haynes Co. of Boston.
Arimany also brought an almost-severe performance demeanor; no winking showmanship. Tempos were pushed to the max and technical challenges dispatched. Again, Weiss was a match, and the duo pulled off the driving tandem passages in near-lockstep.
Between the Vivaldi and Doppler, Arimany soloed in Mozart’s Concerto for Flute in D major (K. 314). While he took the notes and ran with them, the BCO provided sensitive, lyrical support.
Classical lore has it that Mozart wasn’t a flute fan. Yet he created the great “Magic Flute” opera, and for an encore following the Doppler, Arimany and Weiss played a transcription of an aria from that work, “Ach, ich fühl’s, es ist verschwunden.” A lament sung by Pamina, daughter of Queen of the Night, it was simply lovely — a respite from the action.
The concert’s other encore, sans flutes, provided some of the night’s most heartfelt moments, offered after BCO music director Steven Lipsitt told the audience about the move to a Sunday-only schedule. The shift is due partly to financial and attendance issues, Lipsitt said, noting that Sundays bring bigger crowds, and dropping Saturdays will allow the BCO, a paid professional ensemble, to program larger orchestras and tackle such works as Beethoven symphonies, as well as to tap local talent who are often engaged on Saturday nights. Then Lipsitt led the group in the movement from Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major (BWV 1068), known as “Air for the G String” — a number that’s played so often it can seem almost comical, but here was profound.
The evening began and ended on a flute-less note, with a cheery string orchestra transcription by Lipsitt of Brahms’s piano Rhapsodie (Op. 119, No. 4). It concluded with a soothing, even sedate performance of Mozart’s popular Symphony No. 29 in A major (K. 201).