The Salt Bay Chamberfest closed its 2011 season at Round Top Center for the Arts on Friday night with the Maine premiere of “Crossings” by Pierre Jalbert, a musical exploration inspired by his family’s journeys from France to Quebec and then to the United States.
It is based loosely on a French-Canadian song titled “Quand j’ai parti du Canada,” which does not appear in its entirety until the middle of the work. When it does, it comes with a sense of recognition, since fragments of it have been used to construct the driving patterns that have gone before.
The song, when it arrives, has already been transformed. Plaintive and evocative without being in the least sentimental, it contrasts strongly with rapid passages — a contrast that is satisfyingly resolved.
“Crossings” is strong, vibrant and effective in its use of both dissonance and harmony to create emotional effects.
My first thought about the new piece was of Bartok. The second was that we were hearing a masterpiece: distinctively modern, with a recognizable voice, yet readily accessible to a large audience.
The Jalbert premiere was preceded by two equally intriguing works, Stravinsky’s “3 Pieces for Clarinet Solo” and Copland’s Duo for Flute and Piano.
The Stravinsky, as played by Derek Bermel, offered a fascinating romp through the capabilities of the instrument and various styles of writing for it, with a large helping of wit and humor. The composer has thrown in everything from birdsong to jazz and ended it with a “beep.”
I found Copland’s Duo even more interesting. Written at the end of the composer’s life — it may have been his final work — it has the authentic American voice we have come to expect from well-known suites such as “Appalachian Spring,” but with an admixture of more academic musical styles. It makes one believe that Copland was indeed experimenting with 12-tone music.
It was given a definitive and loving performance by Paul Dunkel, flute, and Michael Boriskin, piano. Dunkel was a student of William Kincaid, principal flautist of the Phildelphia Orchestra, in whose honor the Duo was written.
The program ended with a fine performance of the Quintet for Piano and Strings in C Minor, No. 2, by Gabriel Faure, with pianist Ignat Solzhenitsyn.
Solzhenitsyn is not only an accomplished pianist but also a sensitive conductor and all-round musician. He maintained perfect balance throughout a long and exhausting performance of what might otherwise have been a small piano concerto.
The capacity audience at Round Top’s Darrows Barn gave it a standing ovation.
Christopher Hyde’s Classical Beat column appears in the Maine Sunday Telegram. He can be reached at: