Friday, August 11, 2017

Review: Symphony Summer Series

David Lemelin, clarinet
Magdalena Adamek, piano
Aug. 10, Dominion Arts Center

David Lemelin, the Richmond Symphony’s principal clarinetist, joined by Magdalena Adamek, the Virginia Commonwealth University-based pianist, performed in the penultimate concert of the Richmond Symphony Summer Series’ “The Flower of England: from the Empire through the Wars.”

Their program’s two largest works, the Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford’s Clarinet Sonata, Op. 129, dating from 1911, and the Sonatina (1981) of Joseph Horovitz, represented stylistic poles of the music sampled in this series.

Stanford was the leading musical academic of Edwardian England, a founder of the Royal College of Music and longtime professor of music at Cambridge University. Vaughan Williams and Holst were among his many students. Stanford’s style was resolutely late-romantic, indebted especially to Brahms.

Horovitz, a 91-year-old Austrian émigré, is a prolific composer of works for wind instruments and ensembles. His Sonatina is one of many that draw inspiration from jazz.

Lemelin sounded equally fluent in these contrasting styles, playing with abundant lyricism and attentiveness to the range of dusky tone colors in the Stanford, and with flexibility, verve and playfulness in the Horovitz, especially in its stride-inflected final movement.

Between those poles, in the “Five Bagatelles,” Op. 23, of Gerald Finzi – one of the 20th century’s leading composers of music for clarinet – Lemelin ranged expertly through the differing styles and instrumental voices of this collection of miniatures, making his strongest impression in the impressionistic Forlana.

Adamek was a sympathetic and versatile accompanist, generally maintaining good balance with the clarinetist, and an animated partner in the busy fugue that concludes the Finzi set.

In her solo cameo, “Three Miniature Pastorales” by Frank Bridge, Adamek lived up to the composer’s characterization of the set – children’s music for an adult, outwardly playful but also inward-looking, reflecting Bridge’s spiritual trauma during the slaughter of World War I.

The series, staged in the Gottwald Playhouse of Dominion Arts Center, concludes on Aug. 17 with a performance by oboist Shawn Welk and pianist Richard Becker.