Boston Globe, By Jeffrey Gantz, October 19, 2014
The “crossroads” of the Emmanuel Music evening at Longy School of Music on Friday was John Harbison’s 2012 title piece, a setting of three poems from Louise Glück’s 2009 volume “A Village Life.” “Crossroads” acted as a meeting place for Felix Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No. 2 (written in 1821, when the composer was just 12), Hugo Wolf’s “Italian Serenade” (1887), and selections from Wolf’s “Mörike-Lieder” (1888), and Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for strings (1946).
The three Glück works — “Twilight,” “Primavera,” and “Crossroads” — all speak to the passage of time; in “Primavera” we’re told that “even the earth itself will follow the artist’s name into oblivion.” Glück wrings poetry from such pedestrian lines as “abstractions from which come intense pleasures,” and Harbison follows suit in his astringent, bittersweet setting, in which pizzicato strings seem to march us toward the grave.
Soprano Kendra Colton was an earnest soloist who lacked bloom and didn’t convey Glück’s muted intoxication; that was left to Peggy Pearson’s insinuating oboe, though she would have been better served by the chamber version as opposed to the orchestra version that was presented here.
The Mendelssohn sinfonia, for all the high spirits of its outer movements, also marks time in the somber plucked strings of its andante. And Wolf’s serenade, despite its bustling energy, had me wondering whether it too couldn’t be a setting for Glück’s poetry. In both pieces, however, the 19-member string ensemble, under Emmanuel artistic director Ryan Turner, struggled with Pickman Hall’s clear, bright acoustics, sounding acerbic and at times even squeaky.
Mezzo-soprano Krista River brought warmth and intelligence to her five “Mörike-Lieder” pieces, pointing her phrases and barely looking at her score.
The Stravinsky concerto that ended the program was also appropriate, since it begins with an admonition that sounds like a clock striking. Here again one could hear Glück’s voice — sour, bewildered, wistful. The stop-and-go vivace was a little too much stop, but in the arioso Turner found the long line that had eluded him in the andante of the Mendelssohn, and the concluding rondo was a jittery triumph.