Performing Arts

World premiere, Baroque pieces mark end of KC Chamber Orchestra season

The Kansas City Chamber Orchestra gave a beautifully representative performance Thursday in its 29th season’s final concert, “Baroque Amore,” at Old Mission United Methodist Church in Fairway.

Conducted by Bruce Sorrell, the orchestra’s sound was cohesive and balanced, with vibrant energy and a bright timbre, perfectly suited to a brisk springtime evening.

The concert combined the festive works of two contemporaneous Baroque masters, a joyous 18th-century symphony and the world premiere performance of contemporary composer Forrest Pierce’s concerto, “A Siege of Herons.” (This was the second world premiere by a local composer the organization presented this season.)

Pierce’s work was commissioned for the orchestra and soloist Margaret Marco, a proponent of the oboe d’amore, a Baroque-era instrument of serene tone and peppery articulations. Marco gave the performance energy and elegance in some tricky, extended passages.

Written for oboe d’amore, strings and percussion, the concerto followed the Classical-era form loosely tied to programmatic images of herons in various states for each of the three movements. “Great Blue High Wind” opened with piercing, stabbing downbows, the prominent percussion part sometimes enhancing, sometimes covering, the soloist. “Night Herons” featured subtle, quiet rhythmic movement against a twisting, undulating line, as well as organic transitions. “Bombard” combined a pulsing, lopsided meter, surprising chromatic choices and a rock music influence in the saturated string motif.

The piece seemed incongruously knitted at times, however, the conversation between soloist and ensemble suffering from inconsistent audibility as accompanying voices overshadowed primary material and dramatic high points.

The first portion also included Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Overture to “Pygmalion” and George Frideric Handel’s “Water Music,” Suite No. 2 in D Major. With trumpets and horns set antiphonally and an energetic reading (if slightly heavy and overloud), one could well imagine the tones ricocheting off the banks of the Thames in regal form.

As the sun set beyond the sanctuary’s high windows, the ensemble was surrounded by candlelight for the final work, Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 in C Major, “Il Distratto.”

Taken from incidental music repurposed and reframed in symphonic form, the work retained the jarring theatrical moment from its original version when the violinists interrupt the last movement to retune their instruments. The whole work, even beyond this amusing moment, was enjoyable and varied, presented with vigor and lightness, a fine cap to the season.

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