Clarinettist Benjamin Lulich played Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Solo Clarinet to open the program. The rich, woody timbre he employed in the opening, and the weight of importance placed on each individual note lent the air of a self-conscious, mildly sad threnody with a long, slow, riveting decrescendo al niente at the end. The finale felt like a slightly wonky klezmer tune, marvelously short, sweet and delicious, like a musical petit fours. Flutist Ransom Wilson followed this with Debussy's iconic Syrinx for solo flute, playing with a sinuous, serpentine clarity of line and skillful manipulation, varying timbre even across individual notes.
Jean Cartan's (1906-1932) Sonatine for Flute and Clarinet was next, as Wilson and Lulich joined forces for a Pastorale that opened as curious ricercar followed by a murmuring accompagnato for flute, and there were fascinating times when the duo managed to sound like two flutes, or even two clarinets. The Berceuse was characterized by a warm, buttery 4-note ostinato from the clarinet, and they reveled in the dissonant cadences of the Rondeau.
Jacques Ibert's Suite from Le jardiniere de Samos saw the woodwind players joined by Mikio Sasaki on trumpet, Jennifer Frautschi on violin, Mihai Marica on cello, and percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum.Highlights from the Ibert included Frautschi's dancing, 2-note saltando chords in the Air de danse, the 3-voiced fugue with delightfully bouncy entrances, and the incredible efficacy of the ensemble playing in bringing out the highlights from amongst a welter of interweaving lines.
Stravinsky's Suite from L'histoire du soldat comprised the second half of the afternoon, and for it the Ibert ensemble (minus cello and flute) were joined by Charles Reneau on trombone, Peter Lloyd on bass, and bassoonist Julie Feves, who also provided a delightful narrative of the tale before the music started.
Such incredible variety over a short concert (perhaps an hour's worth of music) is one reason why CMNW is such an important part of the region's cultural landscape, and further is an example of the ingenuity of the programming.