Equinox Chamber Players In Concert for Impact

Thursday, March 27, 2003, 7:30 PM
St. John’s United Methodist Church, Watertown, MA

Concert Review by David Cleary

The estimable Equinox Chamber Players, a wind quintet based out in St. Louis, came to the Boston area to give a series of presentations. This benefit concert for IMPACT, an organization devoted to providing safety training for youngsters and adults, was the last of these. Their program consisted of New Tonalist music by woman composers based in New England.

Beth Denisch’s two pieces added a percussionist to this standard fivesome. Originally scored for this configuration while adding in glass harmonica, Jordan and the Dog Woman is based on episodes from Jeannette Winterson’s novel Sexing the Cherry. It obliquely references the sonic universes of Debussy, Stravinsky, and Copland while maintaining a viably cogent sense of self; pentatonic and blues-based material figures prominently in various parts of the work. The gestures and textures are simple without seeming insubstantial. In short, it’s easy on the ears and most enjoyable. Women, Power, and the Journey, a piece commissioned by the quintet that celebrates four St. Louis based women, is absolutely first-rate stuff. A bit more dissonantly neoclassic than Jordan, it puts forth very clear, cogent ideas and unfolds attractively without cloying. There’s purposeful drive to this music, derived in part from the appropriation of African and pop idioms. In fact, the last movement, a tribute to Tina Turner, really rocks in a way that much similarly inspired downtown New York music does not. These wonderfully evocative character entries are simply splendid.

In contrast, Gwyneth Walker’s Braintree Quintet proves too bucolic for its own good. Each of its five movements is a fantasia based on traditional Protestant hymns. The music, while certainly clever (one movement has the double reed players roaming the audience, crowing into their reeds in imitation of sheep gone astray), sadly comes off as syrupy and trite, inoffensive in the less good sense of the word.

Performances by the Equinox group (Cathy Lane, flute; Ann Homann, oboe; Jeanine York-Garesche, clarinet; Donita Bauer, bassoon; and Carole Lemire, horn) were excellent. A well-polished sense of ensemble blend, top-notch intonation, clean finger technique, and accomplished solo turns characterized their playing. Percussionist Henry Claude provided sturdy support throughout.