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Ronan Chamber Ensemble greeted “daylight saving time” with aplomb

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The tantalizing Caprice on Danish and Russian Airs for flute, oboe, clarinet & piano, Op. 79 by Saint-Saëns came to us delightfully passed from a celebratory opening by pianist Gregory Martin to Alistair Howlett’s flute, thence enlarging the scope to Jennifer Christen’s oboe and David Bellman clarinet. With obvious enjoyment, the players shared the jovial sentiment in solos and combinations. I observed toe-tapping and body swaying as the audience ‘got into the groove.’

“The Caprice exploits the wonderful hues and nuances of the woodwind palette: both the expressive and the mournful are interspersed with sparkling passages for the piano,” offers the Hyperion CD release notice, adding, “The lower register of the clarinet and bassoon are often used with great effect in the articulation of the authentic Russian and Danish melodies. The tempo varies from lively, energetic sections to slow, expressive, improvisational themes in duple and triple meters, played in solo and ensemble combinations.”

“Three Salon Pieces for septet (wind quartet plus piano trio) serves as a set of light-hearted thank-you notes to Ronen’s three co-creative directors, Greg Martin (piano), David Bellman (clarinet), and Ingrid Fischer Bellman (cello),” informed composer Matthew Bridgham, as a note to the work’s world premiere on March 9, in the Wood Room at Hilbert Circle Theatre. 

“In 2018, Matthew wrote them a challenging piece for clarinet plus piano trio called Avon Yard,” further informs Bridgham’s website. “This piece was very personal for him, but also more of a concept than outright music. It might not have been exactly the kind of music they expected from him, but nevertheless, they premiered it with such refinement and beauty. If Avon Yard was a big dinner with a healthy portion of greens, Three Salon Pieces is a light yet indulgent dessert.”

Indeed, the work translates a dancerly core that begs for physical movement as the six players lure us first into the jaunty and then swinging Waltz, marked as Moderato leggiardo — with moderate lightness. The Barcarolle nimbly emulates the songs of Venitian gondoliers. I pictured it being played on Indianapolis’ downtown Central Canal section to accompany us as we stroll or bike along the pathway, or waft along in the water, to the gently rocking rhythm. We’re into a lively triple time with Mazurka. Marked ‘Moderato,’ Peter Vickery’s violin opens with a lilting lure for Jennifer Christen’s oboe to follow and bring along Ingrid Fischer Bellman’s cello, Alistair Howlett’s flute, David Bellman’s clarinet, Mark Ortwein’s bassoon, all leading into Bridgham’s assertive piano solo, which gives way to each of the others, in a circular motion, enlivening a triple time dance.

My immediate reaction, ‘I want to hear this again.’

Part two of the “This and That” themed program took us into an introspective mode with Charles Martin Loeffler’s Two Rhapsodies for Oboe, Viola and Piano, composed in 1901 to two spookily evocative poems by Maurice Rollinar. L’Etang, The Pond, whips up a stormy scene with the feel of unearthly creatures encircling us, while La Cornemuse, Bagpipes, conjures up an eerie moaning. Gregory Martin, at the piano, created the atmospheric settings while Jennifer Christen’s oboe and Yu Jin’s viola, alone and together, provided the melodic lines to scare us just enough to feel in sync with the recently installed light and sound tribute to the Soldiers and Sailors Monument that quite suddenly came through the west-facing wall of windows, imprinting purple and red on the south wall of the Wood Room.

The eclectic program closed with a beautifully rendered interpretation by David Bellman, Ingrid Fischer Bellman and Gregory Martin, of Robert Muczynski’s four-movement Fantasy Trio, Op. 26 for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. Notes for the Brilliant Classics CD, released in May 2017, mentions Chicago-native “Muczynski may safely be called the most important neoclassical composer of post-war America. His style bears influences from Bartók, Barber, Bernstein, and occasional jazz elements.” 

A quick foray into a University of Cincinnati 2003 Doctor of Musical Arts dissertation extended my heretofore scanty knowledge of Muczynski, and thereby made this posting tardy. But such is the bent of a critic forever on the path of learning. You can read what I read here:!etd.send_file?accession=ucin1048094945&disposition=inline 

Up next for composer Matthew Bridgham:

March 16, 2020, 7:30 p.m. University of Indianapolis, Christel DeHaan Fine Arts Center Ruth Lilly Performance Hall; free

Richard Ratliff celebrates 40 years at the University of Indianapolis with an evening of personal favorites from the 18th through 21st centuries: music of C.P.E. Bach, Schubert, Kodály, John Berners, and Matthew Bridgham (the premiere of his Nocturne No. 2, “Starsea”). The last half of the program will be devoted to the inspired lyricism of Franz Schubert’s A-Major Sonata of 1828 (D. 959) – an epic drama with moods ranging from desolation and near madness (a “cry of the heart”) to joyful exuberance.

More information: 317-788-3255.

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next up for Ronen:

April 27, 7:30 p.m., Wood Room, Hilbert Circle Theatre

The Magic of E-Flat

Tickets: 317-846-9334;; at the door

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