Monday, September 27, 2010

NCCO: An Evening with Edgar Meyer

On Saturday night I was at the New Century Chamber Orchestra's season opener, featuring bassist Edgar Meyer. In the opening Rossini String Sonata in G, NCCO's own bassist, Anthony Manzo, played his solos with excellent intonation & a pleasing, soft-edged sound. It is always possible to pick out his sound, & yet he somehow also blends very well with the rest of the ensemble. During one of his solos, a cell phone with a xylophone ring tone went off, seemingly in time to the music.

Edgar Meyer first played the Prelude to the Bach Cello Suite No. 2 in d minor. His playing draws the listener in & is surprisingly intimate. In the virtuoso Bottesini concerto, Mr. Meyer was an unshowy but impressive soloist. His motions are efficient & effortless. He modestly wore a blue shirt, with the sleeves rolled up, & a bow tie. My concert companion was amused by the comfortable way Mr. Meyer leaned on his instrument when playing. Mr. Meyer received an immediate standing ovation, at which point his bow somehow flopped out of his hands, to gasps from the audience. As an encore, he gave us a light & jazzy improvisation in which he plucked & slapped the strings instead of bowing.

In the bleak Shostakovich String Quartet No. 8, the orchestra made much of the rough & violent middle sections, really digging in. Principal cellist Susan Babini played her soft solos with great control. At the beginning of the evening, leader & music director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg announced that the final piece, the Adagietto from Mahler 5, would be recorded for the group's up-coming CD, & she requested our quiet. I think we were very silent.

The NCCO is conductorless, & the musicians do a good job cuing each other, though I am sometimes visually distracted by Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg's movements. There was certainly nothing tentative about entrances or the sustained pianissimos that ended both the Shostakovich & Mahler. I liked the enthusiastic Herbst Theatre audience, which clapped for individual movements of the Rossini & Bottesini. At the end of the intermission, I was entertained to learn that a 12 year old girl who studies the bass was taken backstage & was thrilled to meet Mr. Meyer.

New Century Chamber Orchestra
An Evening with Edgar Meyer

Rossini: Sonata No. 1 in G major
Bottesini: Concerto for String Bass No. 2 in B minor
Edgar Meyer, bass
Mahler: Adagietto from Symphony No. 5
Shostakovich (arr. Barshai): Chamber Symphony in C minor (Op. 110a)

Saturday, September 25 at 8pm
Herbst Theatre

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