In performance: KenCen Chamber Players
Harp takes center stage in Chamber Players' varied program
by Cecelia Porter
It's not often that a harpist stars on the stage as a soloist. The National Symphony Orchestra's principal harpist, Dotian Levalier, did just that at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater on Sunday afternoon. Soloist in Maurice Ravel's translucent Introduction and Allegro, Levalier was joined by colleagues from the Kennedy Center Chamber Players (also members of the NSO), adding the unusual combination of flute, clarinet and string quartet for a luminescent performance of the Ravel, virtually a mini-concerto. There wasn't any trick of the harp trade that Levalier missed as she glided through iridescent glissandos or swept through rippling arpeggios. The strings and winds indulged in Ravel's imaginative play of textures, some dense, some hauntingly spare, missing none of the music's persistent Iberian rhythms.
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Another French work, Henri Dutilleux's "Ainsi la Nuit" for string quartet, is based on a series of brief sections bridging -- within a severely intellectual framework -- what is heard with what was heard and what will be heard. But, for first-time listeners, the overall effect can be summed up as sudden, shifting bursts of sound connected by dots and dashes. With its relentless metamorphosis of sonorities, the Dutilleux is fiendishly difficult to perform, but the quartet made it an exciting, if somewhat perplexing, tour de force.
Antonin Dvorak's String Sextet in A, Op. 48, closed the concert. I prefer a sweeter, rather than sometimes strident, sound, and more supple phrasing than I heard Sunday. Such ruminative, nostalgic music voices a lament for the Slavonic folk music of a fading past and therefore calls for more resonance and pliancy.
-- Cecelia Porter
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