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In performance: National Chamber Players

Web-only review:

National Chamber Players offer musical compassion
by Alfred Thigpen

Call it fortuitous. Coming on the aftershock of Haiti, the National Chamber Players' program Tuesday at Episcopal High School featured works with themes of compassion, crisis, birth, life and death. That the compositions were those of Philip Glass and Arnold Schönberg might seem unlikely, but programming in the performing arts can be strangely prescient.
(read more after the jump)

Able to stand on its own, Glass's "A Moment in Time" is actually incidental music composed for Samuel Beckett's "Company," best summarized, "Birth is death's beginning." This work benefited greatly from choreography by Dana Tai Soon Burgess, who used six dancers in various combinations emphasizing human dialogue. Juxtaposed against the repetitive structures of Glass, this visual element elicited an unexpected emotional quality made all the more palpable by perfectly intonated trademark arpeggios as well as the quartet's precisely executed rhythms. The end product was Glass written in longhand instead of the customary Morse code.

The young Schönberg composed "Verklärte Nacht" (Transfigured Night) in 1899, a work having more in common with neo-romanticism than his later atonality or serialism. Employing a complexly woven score for string sextet, Schönberg unfolds a story of deep human compassion. From the magically executed poco a poco crescendo near the onset to the sparkling pizzicato/arco passages at the end, the National Chamber Players held their audience's undivided attention with startling versatility of mood, color and unexpected tonality.

Tuesday's concert, dedicated to the people of Haiti, was free, though relief donations were requested. Episcopal's next program, an autism benefit, will be May 4.

-- Alfred Thigpen

By Anne Midgette  |  January 21, 2010; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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