Musical Time Travel

   Chamber music concerts have the power to transport you back in time. Close your eyes as the harpsichord hums or the oboe squeals and suddenly you’re in eighteenth-century Vienna. Can you smell the bratwurst? Can you hear Mozart laugh?

   When the setting for such a concert is The Mar-a-Lago Club, that sense of time travel is even more vivid. On the evening of January 21, the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach brought classical music to the ornate halls of Mar-a-Lago once again. Harpsichordist Paolo Bordignon joined oboe players Matthew Dine and Stephen Taylor for the third concert in the Society’s inaugural 2013-14 season. Accompanied by a guest bassoonist, the trio performed a textured program of solos, duets, trios and quartets of amusing reed repertoire, served with a side of comic relief.

Matthew Dine, Paolo Bordignon and Stephen Taylor

   After opening with Handel’s “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba,” Stephen Taylor—an oboist with the New York Woodwind Quintet and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center—urged us to locate the exits, for we were at an oboe recital. He also noted that he had been warned not to swing from The Mar-a-Lago’s chandeliers. (I made a mental note to follow his lead.)

   This candor continued through the evening, interrupted by works from composers like Zelenka, Bach and Couperin. For the most part, harpsichordist Paolo Brodignon—of the New York Philharmonic—provided the harmonic backdrop for the reeds. He shone, however, on his solos, which included Couperin’s “Les Barricades Mistérieuses” or “The Mysterious Barricades.” Described by Brodignon as the most famous harpsichord composition of all time, the piece illustrates the true beauty of this nuanced instrument.

   One of the best trios of the evening came from a pseudo-somber piece entitled “In the Cemetery.” Don’t let the title fool you; this jaunty blend of oboe and harpsichord is a celebration of life perfectly executed by Bordignon, Dine and Taylor. Throughout the performance, the oboes played off each other with panache and precision, often marrying to create one single, almost flute-like tone.

   When the chandeliers began to glow at the end of the performance, I half expected to hear the clip-clop of a horse and carriage arriving to take me home. Instead, I heard a thunderous round of applause indicative of a first-rate performance. There are two more opportunities this season to catch extraordinary programming courtesy of the Chamber Music Society of Palm Beach. On February 11, clarinetist Jon Manasse will perform with pianist Jon Nakamatsu. Then, on March 20, pianists Greg Anderson and Elizabeth Joy Roe will take the stage. Tickets are available by calling 561-379-6773.

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