The eighth Spoleto Festival USA Chamber Music Concert Tuesday in the Dock Street Theatre offered another wide choice of repertory with the music of Bach (J.S.), Beethoven, Chopin and Jonathan Berger, the composer-in-residence for the festival.
Berger's song cycle "Theotokia" (Hymn to the Mother of God) was a world premiere composition with dissonance and atonality written for soprano Dawn Upshaw and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Joining them was pianist Pedja Muzijevic.
The texts by Dan O'Brien are strong stuff, based on information provided from group therapy sessions with three schizophrenics who all thought they were Jesus Christ. In Berger's words, "(The song cycle has an) intentionally distressing text. I hope you enjoy it."
Upshaw successfully made the leaps and bounds needed. The remaining players were also wisely entrusted with the accompaniment.
A glittering array of musicians opened with J.S. Bach's "Brandenburg Concerto No. 5." Flutist Tara Helen O'Connor, violinist Daniel Phillips, and harpsichordist Muzijevic played the bulk of the music. They were assisted by a small orchestra of violinists Geoff Nutall, Scott St. John, Livia Sohn and Shannon Thomas, violists Lesley Robertson and Barry Shiffman, cellist Christopher Costanza and double-bassist Ed Allman.
Muzijevic delivered the lengthy and spectacular harpsichord cadenza in the first movement so well that there was a brief round of spontaneous applause which drowned out the last few bars.
The St. Lawrence Quartet performed with affection the heart-rendingly beautiful "Cavatina" from Beethoven's String Quartet No. 13, Op. 130.
Chopin's "Introduction and Polonaise Brillante" was rearranged so that the cello part became greater and provided a vehicle for someone of Alisa Weilerstein's statue the opportunity to deliver a spectacular reading and emote to her fullest. Her pianist was Inon Barnatan whose piano part was as sensational as Weilerstein's.