Novelty and nonsense were on the program for the third week of the Summerfest chamber music series.
Saturday’s performance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s White Recital Hall was well-received, with smatterings of chuckles throughout the show. More often than not, actor Robert Gibby Brand was responsible with his somewhat cheeky delivery.
The first three pieces on the program they also performed Friday night at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church as part of the KC Fringe Festival.
First up was Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber’s “Sonata Representativa,” a Baroque delight of violin virtuosity as though displayed in a country barnyard, representing various animals through musical means. Mary Grant played the tricky violin part with studied delivery and a broad tone, offering scoops and trills to emulate bird calls, hopping intervals and a yawning, drawn out glissando for the cat’s lazy meow.
Alexander East (cello) and Charles Metz (harpsichord) were given more than basic continuo, finally, with more trio-like writing and energy, drones and rolling chords adding footing for the fiddling. Brand announced each animal between the brief movements.
He stayed on as narrator in David Alpher’s “The Walrus and the Carpenter.” The piece paired Lewis Carroll’s deliciously silly poetry with a trio of flute (Shannon Finney), viola (Jessica Nance) and piano (Melissa Rose).
Alpher, a cabaret pianist and classically trained composer, did not make the music glib or foolish. He used a fair number of jazz characteristics, performed here with more precision than style, though Finney incorporated the dancelike momentum of swung notes.
Brand also introduced Evan Chambers’ “Love Dogs,” inspired by the 13th century Sufi poet Rumi. Kristin Velicer (violin), Nance (viola) and East (cello) got a workout in this intense, nonstop whirlwind of a work, the melody in constant flux between players, who sawed away on the accompanying figure almost continuously. Wilder and wider, they smeared tones ecstatically, engaging high-register harmonics in a frenzy.
The work was short and the ending too succinct; it did not achieve a state of transcendence, but rather an introduction to the idea of it.
Max Bruch’s Septet was an impressive early work (he was 11 when he wrote it), though saturated and overblown, for violin (Velicer and Grant), cello (East), bass (Richard Ryan), clarinet (Jane Carl), bassoon (Joshua Hood) and horn (Martin Hackleman). While virtuosic in places with moments of fun and interest, the work was more challenging than musically rewarding.