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Review: Knights open Chromatics series with vibrant, stylish concert

Sunday, September 29, 2013
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The Knights, a chamber music group, performed at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Sunday night.
The Knights, a chamber music group, performed at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Sunday night.

— Music is about having fun and The Knights revel in that approach. On Sunday, the chamber music group, which works without a conductor, returned to the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall to open the Troy Chromatics Concerts series.

The program reflected the group’s expertise and versatility with everything performed with exceptional precision, attention to detail, a vibrant energy and a stylish flair. The crowd cheered after each selection with great enthusiasm.

Twelve of the players began with J.S. Bach’s Concerto for Violin and Oboe in C minor, which initially was a two harpsichord concerto until someone arranged it in the 1920s for two other instruments. Violinist Johnny Gandelsman and oboist Adam Hollander were the lively soloists who interwove their lines in a private dialogue while the rest of the strings and harpsichord gave their support. Balances were delicate, the group’s tone was refined and mellow. Tempos were lively with a gentle lilt for the slower movement.

Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat “Dumbarton Oaks” got a vivacious reading from 15 players. Written in 1937 on commission as a wedding present, the three movements had plenty of rhythmic punctuation. Lines were busy and very interactive in the outer two movements and more transparent for the inner one, which allowed for more woodwind solos. Eric Jacobsen, who usually conducts but played cello here, said The Knights were soon headed to Dumbarton Oaks, a fabulous estate outside of Washington, D.C., to perform and record the concerto.

Steve Reich’s Duet for Two Violins and Strings was sunny and mesmerizing. Violins Arianna Kim and Guillaume Pirard played repeated staggered lines that created a kind of reverb against the eight other musicians who played pedal tones. Tonalities shifted from major to minor and back, and volumes changed.

Haydn’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major “Le Soir” was one of three works based on the time of day written for Prince Esterhazy in 1761, when at 29, Haydn had just become the Prince’s music master. Sunny and buoyant with a few choice solos for flute, bassoon and cello, the four movements moved right along with 19 players. Haydn’s vibrant mood set up the final work, “... the ground beneath our feet,” which was a collaborative effort by The Knights.

After a few effects like whistle tones, rumbling basses, and air through brass tubing, melodic motifs passed around, spiced by an Irish flute, a Celtic air, some Calypso licks and one of the violinists playing ukulele and singing about going too fast and being afraid she’d fade away. The audience joined into the rhythmic clapping with a final jazzThat got a standing ovation.

 
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