CAMBRIDGE — “Light, Wind and Sound” suggests an Antoine Saint-Exupéry memoir about the Sahara, but in fact it was the title of Boston Musica Viva’s final program of the season Saturday at Longy School of Music’s Pickman Hall, and a fair description of the five pieces music director Richard Pittman selected. Sean Shepherd’s “Lumens” provided the light, Julie Rohwein’s “Borne on the Wind” the wind, and Brian Robison’s “A Field Guide to North American Car Alarms” the sound. For good measure, there was a world premiere, “Kaleidoscope,” by William Kraft, and Theo Loevendie’s “Six Turkish Folkpoems.”
“A Field Guide to North American Car Alarms,” which BMV premiered in 2006, was the star of the evening, in a 2014 revision. As Robison explained beforehand, the piece wasn’t entirely finished when it debuted: “It had a huge hole where the climax was supposed to be.” With cello (Jan Müller-Szeraws), piano (Geoffrey Burleson), and percussion (Robert Schulz) onstage and flute (Ann Bobo), violin (Gabriela Diaz), and clarinet (William Kirkley) spaced about the balcony, there were car alarms emanating in every rhythm from every direction. And after Diaz and Müller-Szeraws had mused on the melancholy inner life of those alarms, Bobo and Kirkley exchanged mating calls, something no field guide should be without. Pittman made what the composer called his “controlled chaos” seem logical, especially during Schulz’s anarchic solo section.
The first three pieces — “Lumens,” “Borne on the Wind,” and “Kaleidoscope” — had the same lineup of six instruments, but they lacked distinction from one another. Shepherd’s program note identified “Lumens” as being “about gratitude.” What was more audible was Kirkley’s spooky, owl-like clarinet in a piece that seemed to be observing light from dawn to dusk. Bobo’s flute wafted hauntingly through “Borne on the Wind,” an Idaho-inspired work that also included hard thwacks from Schulz and a hint of wind chimes. “Kaleidoscope,” at seven minutes short enough to encourage Pittman to repeat it, conjured Debussy in its whole-tone scale and “Syrinx”-like low flute.
Loevendie’s “Six Turkish Folkpoems” offered more variety, particularly with the addition of Barbara Poeschl-Edrich’s luminous harp. The Dutch composer started out as a jazz saxophonist, and his piece had some swing to it, with soprano soloist Sarah Pelletier biting into the Turkish text. On occasion she was overwhelmed by the ensemble, but she conveyed questions like “Why are you so sad?” and “Are you drunk again?” so palpably, translation was hardly needed.Jeffrey Gantz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.