Review: Pavilion squeezing seats, but hasn’t shorted on good music

The concert Sunday was to introduce the reconfigured and redesigned Daniels Pavilion at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts. But music and the musicians kept stealing the show.

First it was Glenn Basham, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra concertmaster, and Eric Berg, its associate principal second violinist, playing a Telemann canonic sonata movement from each side of the hall’s midpoint. Then Principal Flute Suzanne Kirton musically somersaulted in, answering Basham measure for measure in a second Telemann canonic sonata.

Canonics are the Sudoku puzzles of performance. These tightly assembled pieces require a second musician to start one to two measures after the first, but playing the exact same score. Each performer must be extremely confident in his or her music because the two never meet until the last notes. Their timing also has to be in perfect sync to keep that carefully constructed musical chase from turning discordant. Kirton, Basham and Berg were great ambassadors for the device, forging tight sequences without ever sacrificing the melodies they were playing.

James Cochran, the harpsichordist Sunday, next grabbed the audience’s attention before it got a chance to wonder whether the stage had been moved back (yes, it has) or the ceiling had been heightened (no, it hasn’t).

Orchestral instrumentation has never been kind to the harpsichord; its plucked strings are no match for bowed strings and woodwinds. So it’s no surprise the 13-piece chamber ensemble at times overwhelmed the instrument in Bach’s Concerto for Harpsichord in F minor. To add insult to that injury, this concerto was apparently first intended for violin.

Still, Cochran coaxed the maximum expression from his harpsichord and created a surprisingly dominant bass line, as well as sparkling trills.

Only after the first pair of three vocal works was there an intermission so the curious could sleuth out how nearly 100 more seats had been wedged into the same footprint. It’s been done partly with a steeper set of risers, made less aesthetically grim through the addition of a rear wall to hide the backside.

The new more colorful chairs are interlocking to keep seating compact. The pavilion’s slender backstage area also has been eliminated to allow more seating in front. This means the musicians enter from a side door that’s now in full view of the audience. But attendees to the Sypert Salon Series — and there was nearly a full house of 280 for the opening one Sunday — aren’t looking for stage magic.

They’re looking for first-rate ensemble music, which this program delivered with a largely happy, lively Bach program. In introducing the concert, Basham called it music “full of joy.”

At some point, it could have even elicited some chuckles, had the Cantata No. 211, Bach’s sly ode to coffee, been played more tongue in cheek. Although soprano Michele Byrd’s rendition was technically fine, a playful approach would have sold it much better.

Byrd was at her best sharing solos with Philharmonic Principal Trumpet Matthew Sonneborn, clear, sweet and strong, in Cantata No. 51 (“Sing God’s Praise in Every Land”). This was formidable piece for both, with three-measure trills for Sonneborn and a crowd of German-language lyrics for Byrd.

Kirton dominated the finale, the flute-centric, and exhausting, Bach Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor. She sailed sweetly through an interlude with Principal Cellist Adam Satinsky and Assistant Principal Bass Debra Stehr and romped through the famous flute solo, a French Badinerie, that carries the suite to its finale.

The next concert of the series is Dec. 6, by which time we may get around to analyzing the newly coral rear walls and colorful shades of violet, gold, teal, gray and yellow on the seating.

Or perhaps not. Where design is concerned here, the program is paramount. The Sypert Series opening concert proved priorities are in the right order.

Connect with Harriet Howard Heithaus at www.naplesnews.com/staff/harriet_howard_heithaus

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