Saturday, January 7, 2012

Review: Chamber Music Society

Jan. 6, First Unitarian Universalist Church

Mary Boodell, the Richmond Symphony’s principal flutist and a regular participant in the programs of the Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia, is one of the most versatile and venturesome musicians in town.

Playing for a society program in October, she reveled in the exotically modernistic flute techniques permeating the “Four Pre-Incan Sketches” of Gabriela Lena Frank. In the opening concert of the society’s “Winter Baroque” mini-series, Boodell, playing the old-style traverso flute, made impeccably stylish work of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor, known as “Il Cardellino.”

Boodell joined baroque violinists Krista Bennion Feeney, Fiona Hughes and David McCormick, violist Theresa Salomon, cellist James Wilson, harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt and lutenist David Walker, playing theorbo, the long-necked bass lute, in “Red Priest,” a program presenting three works of Vivaldi alongside pieces by three of his contemporaries, Arcangelo Corelli, Francesco Geminiani and Pietro Locatelli.

Italians of the late 17th and early 18th centuries created the violin as we now know it and the first examples of virtuoso music for the instrument; so, naturally, this program centered on violins. Feeney and Hughes were featured soloists, respectively, in Locatelli’s “Introduzione Teatrale” and the “Winter” Concerto from Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and were duo partners in Vivaldi’s Trio Sonata, Op. 1, No. 12 (“La Folia”). Hughes and McCormick took on Corelli’s brief Trio Sonata in G major, known as “Ciacona.” Feeney and Boodell were concertante soloists in Geminiani’s Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 2, No. 4.

Virtuosity was not confined to these high-register voices. Some of the evening’s most impressive fiddling came from Wilson, the society’s artistic director, in the fast-and-furious continuo cello figurations underlying much of the program’s uptempo music. Harpsichordist Schmidt contributed similar animation and extroversion, and lutenist Walker both texture and color, to the rhythm and bass lines of the selections.

Although gut-strung fiddles such as these do not project as powerfully as modern, metal-strung stringed instruments, and are trickier to tune and more prone to mishaps (such as the string that snapped on Hughes’ instrument, luckily while she was playing a supporting role in the Vivaldi Flute Concerto, rather than one of the pieces in which she was showcased), their tone and color is less homogenized than those of modern strings; so this small ensemble produced a more varied tonal palette and more vivid sound effects and atmospherics than a modern orchestra might in this music.

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia’s “Winter Baroque” continues with “Chaconne,” a free lecture-recital at noon Jan. 7 in the Gellman Room of the Richmond Public Library, First and Franklin streets; and “Agony and Ecstasy,” a program featuring the “Mystery” sonatas of Heinrich Biber, at 4 p.m. Jan. 8 at First Unitarian, 1000 Blanton Ave. at the Carillon. Tickets: $25. Details: (804) 519-2098;