Kansas City’s got the jump on Carnegie Hall.
On Friday, Friends of Chamber Music and the Kauffman Center co-presented the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with violinist Pinchas Zukerman. The concert included a lively set of standard repertoire, as well as the world premiere of Harold Meltzer’s “Vision Machine.” Orpheus performed the same program in New York on Saturday.
This presentation was part of the Friends’ 40th season, and this season has been a testament to Cynthia Siebert’s passion and vision as founder and president of the organization.
From the outset, Orpheus gave Johann Christian Bach’s Sinfonia in G minor, Op. 6, No. 6 an enlivened run, generating between-movement applause from the enthusiastic audience. The work, displaying the ensemble’s signature cohesion and clarity, was a bit of a firecracker, the momentum not slowing until the subtle surprise of an ending.
Zukerman joined the ensemble for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 3, a work of vibrancy and shifting personalities, from pithy to poignant. His cadenzas filled the hall with authority, from the dense double stop treatment to a trill so quiet, yet firm, one could hear his fingertip hitting the violin’s fingerboard.
In finishing, he turned first to his colleagues in the orchestra with thanks, and then acknowledged the audience’s standing ovation.
Zukerman surprised the orchestra by re-entering during the personnel shift, ready to begin Ludwig van Beethoven’s Romance No. 1 in G major, a piece touched by drama within an overtly pleasant framework. As his own accompaniment in the solo passages, he displayed a gorgeous depth of sound.
After intermission, Meltzer offered background for his “Vision Machine,” commissioned by the ensemble and inspired by Jean Nouvel’s structure of a thousand facets rising over the Chelsea Pier.
Starting with swelling, overlapping entrances in the winds, he created a glossy, disorienting facade from which emerged an ascending pattern that expanded with a floating quality. The energy shifted and surged as crescendos made way for textures of faraway quiet, subtly embellished with plucks from the harp, bent pitches and the harsh surprise of sliding harmonics. Not easily graspable, it was imaginative and evocative, and the ensemble performed with dedicated nuance.
Meltzer’s work matched the instrumentation of Maurice Ravel’s “Le tombeau de Couperin,” partnered on the program. Oboist Roni Gad-El gave a stunning performance of this work of perennial freshness, presenting the joyous babbling of the line, and the ensemble, too, offered an invigorated rendition.