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The vocal quartet was just as impressive. Maria Keohane's bright soprano floated beguilingly in the highest reaches of the vocal stratosphere. The radiant soprano of Johannette Zomer commanded attention. Countertenor Robin Blaze dazzled with his distinctively pure, emotionally vibrant voice and stunning agility. The beautifully mellow, sonorous low bass of Peter Harvey proved versatile at both ends of his vocal range. This was a B minor Mass to remember!

The following evening's program (26 July) gave concertmaster Johannes Leertouwer the solo spotlight for Bach's Violin Concerto No 2 in E major. Leertouwer, a musicians' musician, played with dizzying lightness, bringing zesty energy to Bach's outer movements and long limbed sublimity to the Adagio, supported by a splendid string ensemble. The secular cantata for the name day of King Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, Auf, schmetternde Tone der muntern Trompeten, BWV 207a is not Bach's most inspired work. (The opening chorus does impressively recast the thematic material of the third movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No 1.) However the secular cantata celebrating the birthday of the Electress Maria Josepha of Saxony, Tonet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten! BWV 214 is a marvelous example of Bach's creative recycling. Four movements from the Christmas Oratorio are brilliantly adapted with wonderful interaction between the choir and solo quartet. This too rarely heard score is a gem. After leading exciting performances of the cantatas, Van Veldhoven responded to the standing ovations by repeating the Dona nobis pacem from the Mass. 'Let us end with peace,' he said. The divine beauty of that music and the Dutch ensemble's soaring performance telegraphed a message for our time.

The salon elegance of the music room at the charming Seven Hills Inn in Lenox is the venue for the Stockbridge Summer Music Series. On 6 August the excellent Boston Trio, resident ensemble at the New England Conservatory, demonstrated remarkable versatility. Despite the room's very bright acoustics, these three terrific musicians delivered exciting, technically adept performances. Clarinetist Benjamin Seltzer joined two of the group's members for Beethoven's Trio in B flat major, Op 11. Best known as a piano-violin-cello piece, the clarinet version (in place of the violin) is an intriguing variant. Seltzer's warmly resonant tone and superb dexterity were riveting. Cellist Alison Eldredge, an outstanding soloist in her own right, phrased the glorious second movement theme eloquently. Pianist Heng-Jin Park's strong rhythmic sense was on vivid display in the vivacious Tema con Variazioni.

The Boston Trio
The Boston Trio

In three movements from Astor Piazzolla's Four Seasons of Buenos Aires, Irina Muresanu's impassioned violin and rhapsodic sweep captured the music's blazing energy. She beautifully delineated the Baroque cadence of the conclusion of the Winter section. Dvorák's Piano Trio in F minor Op 65 is Brahmsian romanticism with a nod to the Czech composer's nationalistic mode. The Boston Trio gave this gorgeous work a superb performance. A hyper intense Allegro ma non troppo was succeeded by the aristocratically spun, folksy charms of the Allegro grazioso. The players brought heavenly serenity to the Poco adagio, the score's heart and soul. But the best came last. The Allegro con brio was delivered with exhilarating vigor; the playing absolutely terrific. What a superlative conclusion to a rousing evening! In the Berkshires, the hills are indeed alive with the sound of music.

Copyright © 4 September 2007 Lawrence Budmen, Miami Beach, USA




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