Kansas City Chamber Orchestra’s final concert, featuring winds, is energetic and poised

06/14/2014 7:45 AM

06/14/2014 8:18 PM

The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra completed its season and celebrated summer with a bright and airy concert that featured the ensemble’s wind players. Friday evening’s performance at Unity Temple on the Plaza was poised and engaging, conducted by music director Bruce Sorrell.

Mozart’s Divertimento in F major began the concert, a charming, if not terribly evocative, piece. Mozart did add little punchy asides into the accompanying voices, slotted into the theme. Barbara Bishop offered a nice, dulcet lead voice on oboe.

Sorrell conducted the succinct sextet (pairings of oboe, bassoon and horn), a redundant choice that reduced opportunities for intimacy and spontaneity, with elongated pauses between sections.

Adding flute and clarinet, they performed Charles Gounod’s “Petite Symphonie” with slightly more urgency, maintaining an attitude of precision. A fun thematic line transferred between the upper wind voices, while the horns pulsed energetically.

Christina Webster, on flute, played a gracefully extended arc during the solo line of the second movement, supported by clarinet and horn.

Often, Gounod exploited the energy of a repeated gesture, passing snippets between voices. Members of the ensemble, here and throughout, displayed excellent balance as they lightheartedly bounced off intervals.

Kurt Weill’s “Kleine Dreigroschenmusik,” an arrangement of his “The Threepenny Opera,” was of a considerably different character. The group expanded to include brass, percussion, saxophone, piano, accordion and banjo and guitar. The banjo part, while spare, added a unique, aggressive timbre.

The piece started out polite, somewhat sanitized, but became more enticing, more suspenseful as it developed. “Die Moritat von Mackie Messer” (the well-known “Mack the Knife”), especially, lacked any sort of musical insinuation of its morbid subject matter.

Prominent lines for trombone and saxophone helped with the subdued theatricality and slightly sinister undercurrent, though, along with some biting piano interjections, a mournful clarinet solo, insistent muted trumpet and arco-like tuba presence.

The concert ended with another larger-scale work, Dvořák’s “Serenade in d minor.”

Balance was impeccable, allowing many fine individual moments and ensemble cadence points. The lower voices of bass, cello and bassoons laid an excellent foundation during the sturdy introduction, the clarinets lead the transition into the second movement’s Trio, the horns offered a dramatic quality and again the oboe’s leading voice was ideal.

An assertive, stately final movement summed up the event, presenting dueling clarinet and oboe lines, energetic chords, a sprightly rhythmic motif and upward movement that churned through the ensemble into the elaborate ending flourish.

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