BMOP has no trouble with multiple double concerti

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The Boston Globe
Matthew Guerrieri
January 24, 2011

Virtuosity, in its traditional sense, is musical performance at its most outgoing; the Boston Modern Orchestra Project's Saturday concert — "Double Trouble," a quartet of double concerti — revealed a plethora of extroverted strategies. The plurality of styles was a showcase for the flexibility of conductor Gil Rose's group, switching channels with ease, burnished and rhythmically rigorous in a program marked by wide-ranging gregariousness.

Harold Meltzer's 2004 >em>Full Faith and Credit for two bassoons and strings was inspired by the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage (the title name-checks the constitutional clause deliberately sidestepped by the Defense of Marriage Act), but any programmatic intent was subsumed under Americana-inspired stylistic costumes: more divertimento than concerto, approachable and occasionally inspired (a smear of string harmonics brought down to earth by the bassoons' laconic interplay was particularly ear-catching). Soloists Ronald Haroutunian and Adrian Morejon were soulful and deadpan by turn, every note varnished to a high gloss.

Mathew Rosenblum's Double Concerto for baritone saxophone and percussion, a premiere, packed the Jordan Hall stage with players and instruments; the music was a similar throng of ideas and effects. The initially striking, vaguely Ivesian profusion became diffuse: dense layers canceled out each others' energies; the accomplished verve of saxophonist Kenneth Coon, spot-on and solid, and percussionist Lisa Pegher, forcefully balletic, was hemmed in. Much of it felt like an interesting lead-in to a stronger dramatic profile that never emerged. But the swirling mass produced some wonderful sounds: percolating saxophone punctuated with prog-rock drums, shiny diatonic scaffolding crushed into a lustrous microtonal chorale.

Stephen Paulus's 2003 Concerto for Two Trumpets and Orchestra was the opposite, nothing but dramatic profile, delivered with cinematic style and efficiency. The lapidary moods — a precision-engineered "Fantasy," an "Elegy" soaring through dark clouds, a driving "Dance" — gave the soloists a sharp spotlight; Terry Everson and Eric Berlin poured out dazzling, clarion brightness with elegant edges. The Concerto aims for familiar targets, but Paulus hits them square, with generous skill and polish.

The concert's opener magically reversed the extroverted polarity. In the outer movements of Michael Tippett's 1938-39 Concerto for Double String Orchestra, neoclassical motives volleyed across the mirrored ensembles with jazzy, cheerfully marked brilliance. But the slow movement spun out a gorgeous melody, which gradually disappeared behind a tangle of counterpoint, like the elegiac overgrowth of an abandoned garden. It was an exception to the evening's rule, a virtuosic evocation of the quiet and private.

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.