The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s annual performances of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos have become a New York holiday tradition. And there was good reason to love them on this occasion as a rotating ensemble of twenty-one musicians performed with extraordinary polish and zest.
The program opened with Concerto 5. Kenneth Weiss brought sparkling articulation and improvisatory flair to the harpsichord part, showing off a fine instrument – built by William Dowd in the early-1970s and specifically designed for the acoustics of Alice Tully Hall – as well as his own artistry, most notably in the long first-movement cadenza. Weiss’s virtuosity was complemented by the sensitive playing of his solo partners, Robert Langevin and Cho-Liang Lin.
Concerto 6, in which Bach promoted the violas, followed. Yura Lee and Richard O’Neill played with clear-eyed expressiveness, especially in the sublime Adagio. The convivial and well-matched flutes of Carol Wincenc and Langevin provided a charming foil for Kristin Lee’s expressive violin in the Concerto 4. Her impressively fast and colorful bowing in the Finale was one of the highlights of the evening.
Following intermission, Concerto 2, in which Brandon Ridenour’s rendition – consistently effortless, steady and bright – of the taxing trumpet part was another highlight. He was an especially attentive partner as the other soloists – Danbi Um, Wincenc and James Austin Smith – melded their individually lustrous tones in the central (trumpet-less) Andante. The concert heated up further with an especially exciting rendition of Concerto 3, set at a blistering pace and enlivened by the dynamic playing of Daniel Phillips.
Phillips’s impassioned phrases took the lead again in a buoyant reading of the most elaborate of the Brandenburgs, Concerto 1. The exuberant horn parts were performed with great panache by Jennifer Montone and Julie Landsman, and oboes were vigorously executed by Randall Ellis, James Austin Smith and Stephen Taylor, while Peter Kolkay‘s bassoon solidly anchored the bass line. The charmingly played Minuet-rustic Trio-Polonaise brought this splendid concert to a regal close.
- Further performances on December 17 & 19