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Harvard's Tricky Thirteen



In the austerity of Memorial Church I felt my eyebrows begin to twitch and rise as The Brattle Street Chamber Players, cramped into the narrow alter area, launched into the evening's program sans conductor. My fears were quickly dispelled as it became clear that a tall man waving a baton would only have gotten in the way of this new student group. This is how string chamber music was always meant to be performed. Each player eerily synchronizes perfectly with the rest, with every head swaying in time to the rhythm. In the intimate playing atmosphere they create with the audience the joy of music is clearly evident in the musician's faces. Recently formed in the fall of 1998 from among Harvard's most elite string players, the Player's superb performance is not surprising. Matching the individual musicians' technical abilities, their second concert (benefiting PBH-affiliated HARMONY) was a thoroughly engaging, well-coordinated effort.

Ignoring HARMONY's shameless plug in the introduction, there never was a more serene and enjoyable evening to be had. The small group of thirteen players had no problem projecting their rich tones, with very little help from the resonant acoustics of Mem Church. No particular player stands outfrom the rest; the string ensemble performs with such wonderful cohesiveness that every member is an integral (yet unobtrusive) part of the whole.

Though Sderlundh's "Suite in Swedish Tune" was itself nothing spectacular, I was struck by the ensamble's quick energy and careful attention to the contrasting dynamics of the different movements. Corigliano's "Voyage for String Orchestra" was hauntingly beautiful and executed with similar panache, its ethereal solos seemlessly interwoven despite their brevity. Elkie's "Allegro Troppo for String Orchestra" showcased the technical mastery the ensamble's musicans. At a vivace pace, spiccatos were crisp and clean though after the piece hits the ten-minute mark, the bows start to settle into a repetitious hard grind against the instruments. Dvorak's "Serenade for strings in E major" is a perennial favorite; and as the Player's finale piece it did not disappoint.

The Brattle Street Players fully deserve the standing ovation they received from the audience. One extremely minor complaint is the concert's length. While performed beautifully, their program is distressingly short, covering less than an hour and a half's worth of music (intermission included). With such accomplished players there should be no squirming in seats if a lengthier performance is offered. One hopes that the Players will share more, and more frequently. See The Brattle Street Players play a free concert Saturday, May 8 in Sanders and assure them a good audience.

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