From where I sit, "
Austin Camerata" translates into "unadulterated beauty."
At least it did last night when the Austin chamber orchestra played the
Theatre at the
Long Center for the Performing Arts.
But first, an historical note:
Kevin Rollins, whose gift made the gray box theater possible, adored chamber music. And yet, during the first 10 years of the Long Center,
not much of the genre has been heard in their Studio Theatre.
For a concert called "Reinventions," the room sounded great! And there was enough space onstage to accommodate
Dorothy O’Shea Overbey‘s dancers, who performed with the musicians during the final number.
Back to the music: Like other chamber orchestras, the
University of Texas-associated string group — led offstage but not onstage by cellist
Daniel Kopp — expands on the collaborative dynamics of a string quartet. Their measured romp through
Edvard Grieg‘s "Holberg Suite" was precise, proportional and over way too soon.
All else melted away when guest violinist
Chee-Yun arrived downstage, her red gown gown splashed against the orchestra’s workaday blacks, her performance lighted to their near
darkness. And for good reason, because she could pull all those wild sounds from her instrument for
Astor Piazzolla‘s "Four Seasons of Buenos Aires." These four tangos, composed independently but rearranged to match
Vivaldi‘s "Four Seasons," kept the near-full house on the edge of their seats.
For the final piece,
Dmitri Shostakovich’s somber and powerful Symphony for Strings, the musicians formed an arc around an open space for Overbey and her dancers. All
of them are choreographers as well, so in sense, it was a collaborative effort not unlike the orchestra’s. Dedicated to the
victims of fascism and war, the music is associated with the fire-bombing of Dresden and also could be seen as anti-Soviet.
(A lot is read into Shostakovich.)
Mesmerizing — although at times crowded and unfinished due to a very short rehearsal period — the dark dance held together
by a red scarf well matched the dark music. Visually, it was most arresting when musicians entered the dancers’ zone.
Give us more chamber music at the Rollins and more smart, collaborative work like "Reinventions."