The second Ronen concert of their four-program season featured an abundance of winds and brass, with guest saxophonist Otis Murphy. Clarinetist David Bellman and his wife, cellist Ingrid Fischer-Bellman — co-founders of the series — appear to have re-confirmed themselves into the forefront of locally produced chamber music after the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis severed its sponsorship a few seasons ago. Since Ronen continues to join the IVCI Laureate series for one program a season (and it’s the next one on Feb. 26), one can safely presume no rancor exists.
Last Tuesday’s program opened with La Cheminée du Roi René (The Chimney of King René) for Woodwind Quintet by Darius Milhaud (1892-1974). A member of “Les Six,” that famed sextet of early 20th-century French composers, this Milhaud work dates from 1939, and is one of his more popular chamber pieces. Cast in seven sections, it is grounded by harmony underlyingly beautiful woodwind colors. The performers featured piccolo/flutist Rebecca Arrensen, oboist Pamela French, clarinetist Bellman, bassoonist Mark Ortwein and hornist Rick Graef. Arrensen’s piccolo subbing for her flute captivated especially in No. 6, “Chasse a Valabre.”
Next came the avant-garde work of the evening, Charismata for clarinet, alto sax, cello and percussion by Frank Felice (b. 1961), being given its performance debut, having been composed for and dedicated to the Ronen Ensemble. It featured Bellman, Murphy, Fischer-Bellman and percussionist Jack Brennan. Fischer-Bellman’s cello provided the bottom support for a non-rhythmic display of nicely balanced sax and percussive timbres. The piece offers an ever shifting but near motionless panoply which used sound to convey feeling, a religious one, Felice says. I view it as sound-art more than music as it contains no real linear or rhythmic elements. Afterward Felice came out from the stage-left door for a quick bow.
R. Molinelli’s Four Pictures from New York for Saxophones and Piano (2001), which followed, is an altogether different matter. Hear we return to musical orthodoxy: revivified salon music, in fact. Pianist Eugenio Urrutia joined Murphy as he switched between a soprano sax, a tenor sax and an alto sax. Following a long piano intro, the two musicians melded perfectly, drawing the biggest applause of the evening.
To cap the concert, we heard an arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnole — for one-each of the following instruments: violin, cello, string bass (Gregory Dugan), flute, piano, clarinet, bassoon, horn and trumpet (Marvin Perry). With the harp missing and the upper lines too thin, the arrangement did not flatter the piece, though it was well rendered.