Red Sneakers trip through performance

The Boston Globe

by Susan Larson

CAMBRIDGE  – The Composers in Red Sneakers and their guests,  the ZUArts players, presented a concert in which the Sneaks’ time-honored tradition of whimsy and spontaneity tipped ever into plain carelessness. Programming was not adventurous, the performances were not quite ready for public consumption and ZUArts’ frat-house caperings were a civic embarrassment.  

The evening began with “Three Songs About Love,” written by Howard Frazin in 1966, beautifully performed by soprano Kendra Colton and pianist Frank Corliss.  Frazin likes pretty tunes of the old-fashioned sort, and picks strong texts. Both singer and pianist described the mystery of love  in rapt pianissimos and soaring, sinuous melody. Colton is a superb musician; her voice has a true crystalline timbre, but she controls it too much from her throat. The last song on Yeats’ “When you are old” is for voice alone; Colton performed it with great tenderness.

At this juncture the ZUArts ensemble broke the contemplative mood with rude noises, swarming onstage dressed in scarlet boxer shorts (Poseurs in Red Knickers!) for some puerile, transcendentally unfunny political satire. This intrusion was unforgivable. Do not attend their performances; shun them in the street.

The excellent pianist Kathryn Rosenbach offered, David Cleary’s Sonata “Ondine,” inspired by sonorities in Ravel’s “Gaspard de la Nuit.” The piece runs about 45 minutes, and is fiendishly diflicult to play. Rosenbach was not solid enoughon it to
play with abandon, but she soldiered bravely on. One suspects the composer believed that if he tinkered with his thematic material long enough something would happen. Something did happen that made ears prick up; he threw in a Ravel
quote. Then all was darkness once more.

After intermission there was Herman Weiss’ “Ocean Trilogy” for flute, clarinet, cello and piano, with
Weiss masterful at the keyboard. Unfortunately, both the cellist and the page turner were having a bad day. The last movement pleased us with interesting colors and scraps of ragtime, and fine playing from flutist Julie Skolnik and clarinetist Chester Brezniak.

Beth Denisch’s “Sexing the Cherry,” (Jordan and the Dog Woman) from Jeanette Winterson’s novel, written for and performed by the fine quintet Arcadian Winds with percussion and glass harmonica, is a color piece of great simplicity and
terseness. The ensemble has a beautiful blend, and solo playing was stellar. This was the most enjoyable
bonbon in a concert thrown together too haphazardly.