Review: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, soloists thrill at Kravis

03.20.17
Inon Barnatan, Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Palm Beach Daily News

Academy of St. Martin in the Fields brought their crystalline sound to the Kravis Center on Sunday night as part of the Regional Arts Concert Series. Their program centered on two piano concerti, one old and one new.

The renowned chamber orchestra opened the show with Aaron Copland’s Quiet City, featuring Rachel Ingleton on English horn and Mark David on trumpet. The precision of this ensemble was staggering from the first downbeat. They played with a constant, clear, unified sound, with their blend, balance and attacks always in agreement. As impressive as the soloists were, the collective string sound was equally effective. It would have been easy for this level of precision to be antiseptic, but ASMF instills more than enough musicality to bring the work to life.

Next, the orchestra was joined by pianist Inon Barnatan in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K. 271. This performance was warm, with Barnatan playing with a pristine brightness. Based on the orchestra’s sound in the Copland, it is easy to hear why he would be a welcomed collaborator. The second movement had a dark, ominous tone, for which the orchestra changed their sound on a dime to match. Many orchestras treat this music as an antique, being delicate. With this orchestra, this music is very much alive.

For the second half, Barnatan and David rejoined the orchestra for Alasdair Nicolson’s new — it was premiered the day before in Miami — Piano Concert No. 2 for piano, trumpet, and strings, “The Haunted Ebb,” commissioned by the Academy. The four-movement work was made from transparent textures and a clear, consistent voice. The opening movement, abandoned bells: “the white crying music,” displayed sliding, eerie harmonics in the strings while the pianist played echoing octaves. The second featured ghostly, tinkling lullabies, while the third and fourth had the ensemble playing heavier, darker, and more menacing. Overall, it was a remarkable new work of texture and drama.
 
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