Chamber Players close 50th season
As a group, the oboe, clarinet, and bassoon don’t get star treatment very often. But the three — in the hands of John Ferrillo, William R. Hudgins, and Richard Svoboda, respectively — launched the final installment in the Boston Symphony Chamber Players 50th anniversary season with a jovial performance of Darius Milhaud’s “Suite d’après Corrette” (Op. 161b) that seemed to invite the audience, “Come on in, enjoy!”
Composed in the 1930s, the work has eight short movements (total length under 10 minutes) full of tag-team runs and chatty exchanges. In Jordan Hall Sunday, crowd chuckles trailed into some of the pauses. If a reed balked for a player once or twice, well, it was all among friends.
The Boston premiere of “Parallel Worlds” by Sebastian Currier anchored the concert’s first half. Written for flute and string quartet, the work showcased the virtuosity of Boston Symphony Orchestra principal flutist Elizabeth Rowe next to the combined powerhouse of BSO principals Malcolm Lowe, concertmaster; Haldan Martinson, second violin; Steven Ansell, viola; and BSO cellist Sato Knudsen, filling in for Jules Eskin. (Members of the Chamber Players hold BSO first-chair positions.)
Here the game of tag turned serious. Currier, recipient of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, is known for his inventive exploration of tonal color and concepts of musical time. “Parallel Worlds” opens with strings alone, hushed and restrained, individual pitches bending in and out of tune before the flute bursts in with flutter-tongue and flying fingers, racing up and down the full range of the instrument, goading the quartet to engage.
In program notes, Currier, who grew up in Providence, writes he was struck by the differences between a flute and a string instrument: Both “are designed to play similar material, articulate in analogous ways, even express similar things, yet they seem to occupy different worlds. Parallel worlds.”
Movements are titled Expressive, Animated, Sustained, and Pulsing, hinting at the sense of poignancy that shadows the piece. Each segment builds on the other until relentless rhythmic patterns drive into the final, still notes, delivered by flute alone.
Afterward, the composer joined performers on stage for a warm audience reception.
The piece was commissioned by the consortium Music Accord for the Boston Symphony Chamber Players and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which presented the work’s first performance in March.
Schubert’s gorgeous and monumental Octet in F Major, D. 803, for winds (clarinet, bassoon, horn) and strings (two violins, viola, cello, and double bass) took the second half of the program.
The Chamber Players performed it in their inaugural season, and it has been a recording and concert marquee piece for them since. Perhaps it’s because the group is so comfortable with the work that Sunday’s presentation verged at times on the sleepy.