Review: Chamber Music Society

Brandon Patrick George, flute
John Marcel Williams, guitar
James Wilson, cello
recorded Oct. 25, The Valentine

The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia’s first online concert, titled “Positive Thinking,” presented three permutations of duo performance, ranging in style from the romantic to the neoclassical, by musicians audibly conversant across that range.

The largest work on the program, “L’Histoire du Tango” by the Argentinian tango master Ástor Piazzolla, was played in its original version for flute and guitar – a seemingly curious choice of instruments, in that the flute is by nature a more angular and, at fast tempos, less lyrical or sensual voice for a dance form rooted in sensuality. However curious the instrumentation may sound to modern listeners, it’s historically authentic: Flute and guitar were the original tango instruments in late-19th century Buenos Aires.

Piazzolla’s four-movement “Story of the Tango” is ordered chronologically, from “Bordello” (1900) to “Café” (1930) to “Night Club” (1960) to “Modern-Day Concert.” The outer movements are animated and melodically and rhythmically busy, the inner sections more songful and soulful.

Flutist Brandon Patrick George made the most of the lyrical heart of the piece while exploiting the virtuosic opportunities of the fast sections. Guitarist John Marcel Williams amplified the rhythmic aspects of the music and added needed shading to the bright colors of the flute.

Guitarist Williams and cellist James Wilson (artistic director of the Chamber Music Society) visited a rarely explored corner of musical history, Viennese music for guitar, which thrived in the late-18th and 19th centuries, in Bernhard Romberg’s “Divertimento an Austrian Themes,” a piece that, after a florid cello introduction, weaves Ländler and waltz themes through variations and combinations.

Flutist George and cellist Wilson played up the spooky, borderline-nightmarish atmospherics of the brief Toccata-Nocturne of Guillaume Connesson, a prolific contemporary French composer. The duo treated Connesson’s terse, neoclassical essay to a performance that was assertive and precise yet highly expressive.

Video quality of these performances is clear and unfussy, with a nice combination of distant and closeup shots. Audio suffers a bit from the hollow acoustic of a large, empty room.

Patrons who have already purchased tickets may access the stream. The Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia is currently working to archive this and future online concerts. Details: (804) 304-6312;

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