Brattle Street Chamber Players Stun with Both Silence and Sound

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Conductorless groups have the unique opportunity to engage in musical democracy. As a result, it’s both charming and humbling when a group of 16 members weave their individual talents together without a conductor, as The Brattle Street Chamber Players do. On Thursday, April 5, the ensemble performed a relatively brief but impressive program featuring the works of Mozart and Richard Strauss. The ensemble held its spring concert, “Contrasts,” in the University’s Paine Hall, including guests from the Grammy-winning Parker Quartet, the current Blodgett Artist-in-Residence at Harvard.

The Brattle Players opened with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola Kv. 364, featuring the technically pristine violinist Daniel Chong and musically striking violist Jessica Bodner. Bodner, wearing a black dress with a pattern of sparkling gold shells, plays impressively. Chung’s solo in the second movement chilled the audience with soulful richness, accompanied by The Brattle Players’ steady rhythm, which remained attentive to the melody. Joined by Bodner, the two string artists built of each other with lovely coordination. The graceful dipping and swaying of the guest performers’ bodies matched the sounds that streamed out of their instruments, a treat to both the eyes and ears. Bodner and Chong’s synchronization and chemistry carries off the stage too—it’s unsurprising that the couple is married, given their perfect harmony.

Perhaps the most gripping moments of the Sinfonia Concertante were those filled not with sound, but rather with silence. During measures of rest, Bodner stood with her eyes closed, creating an aura of tranquility that elevated the musical experience to a spiritual level. Similarly, Mozart’s composition leaves many of the violin solo parts with a suspension after an arpeggio climb to higher octaves, which Chong handled powerfully. The last movement bursted with bright colorful sounds and dazzling speeds, showcasing the ensembles’ technical adeptness. Though normally a string-only ensemble, The Brattle Players also successfully incorporated two guest French horn players and two guest oboists for the Sinfonia Concertante, maintaining a singular connected body.

Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” served as the score that highlighted the title of the program, providing irregular tones and a sharp contrast to Mozart’s more rigid structure. Though Strauss wrote the piece for 23 solo strings (10 violins, five violas, five cellos, and three double basses), one would have hardly noticed anything missing in the wealth of emotional and dynamic sound of The Brattle Players’ Thursday performance.


The cellos opened with a deep, rich sound that blended to a murmur as the viola developed into a melancholy melody. A smooth silkiness connected the different tones of the piece, from tender plucks and trembles to sections of swelling intensity. Whereas The Brattle Players’ stood in the back of the Mozart selection to allow Chong to stand in the forefront, each instrument and member subsequently plunged into expressiveness. An exciting charge overtook the bodies of the 11 members of the ensemble, that stood with their instruments as they danced to Strauss’ alluring waves. The three notes in the diminuendo tremored into the rumination of the composition, extraordinary in the depth of concentration and feeding into the allure of the Brattle Players’ “Contrasts.”

—Staff writer Lucy Wang can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @lucyyloo22


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