Tuesday night gave birth not only to a chamber orchestra but also a world premiere written by its conductor.
Brett Wery, a music professor at Schenectady County Community College, received a commission about a year ago to write a piece for a couple he and his wife, oboist Karen Hosmer, knew. In order to perform it, though, Wery had to hire a 14-member string orchestra, which he called the Binnekill Chamber Orchestra, with Hosmer and trumpeter Peter Bellino as the soloists.
Perhaps because Wery knew his patron personally, the three-movement work, “Three Conversations with Coffee,” is an inspired, charming and very accessible work that cleverly has the two soloists in sometimes animated discussion or making pertinent commentary on what the orchestra is doing. Both soloists, who also played English horn and flugelhorn, were in excellent form.
Wery’s score was rhythmic, multi-metered, beautifully melodic, had string sections interweave or echo motifs, blended colors well and allowed for soaring lines and buoyant spirits. The Binnekill, which was made up of area professionals, showed strong ensemble and a centered pitch. Wery told the large crowd he hopes to continue the Binnekill as a composer’s orchestra and build programs around those premieres.
Because Wery’s piece was the final work on the program, it was easier to detect the faint hints of other composers’ styles in his piece — two of whom were performed earlier. There were the long lines of melody that Gerald Finzi employed in his Prelude for Strings, Op. 25 (1957 posthumously). Beautiful melodies with rich harmonies and some delayed dissonance to spice things up created a nostalgic sensibility. Wery allowed the phrases to breathe.
In Copland’s “Quiet City” (1940), with Hosmer on English horn and Bellino on trumpet, the pastoral mood and light articulations, which surfaced in Wery’s piece, created the early hours of a New York City morning. Sometimes melancholy, at other times vibrant, the piece still works. The ensemble had excellent balance.
The real test for the Binnekill was Dvorak’s Serenade for Strings (1875). It has five marvelous movements that are all different but share a richness of melody, delicious harmonic interest and challenges for any string player. Wery conducted with sureness and the ensemble played with great enthusiasm and much feeling.
More work together will allow them to dig deeper into the music, such as being more flirtatious in the second movement’s enticing waltz and playing it with greater controlled abandon.
This concert was the first in the college’s chamber music series, but because of Hurricane Sandy and the school’s closure, St. Luke’s Roman Catholic Church graciously stepped in to host the performance.