Spending the summer in Manhattan has its occasional rewards â€“ like not getting bitten by mosquitoes for oneâ€¦ I had a delightful afternoon at the Chelsea Arts Museum on Saturday with the Double Entendre Music Ensemble. I always enjoy being around art as well as music, and the art shown all around the musicians set a mood of environmental consciousness from the critical to the humorous: a blackened tree of human construction, the contents of a house replicated in white wood as if a remnant of a decayed civilization, an installation of inflated garbage bags, a array of autumn leaves on the floorâ€¦ And in the midst of all these references to nature, the woody, almost pastoral sound of Double Entendre with its four bassoons (Edward Burns, Zachary Cummings, Daniel Hane, Dirk Wels) two English horns (Kathryn Engelhardt, Mark Perchanok), two oboes (Christa Robinson, Nancy Ranger), and one powerful contrabassoon (Suzanne Chen) as well as stellar string players Caleb Burhans (violin), John Pickford Richards (viola) and Brian Snow (cello)â€¦ a very unusual and pleasing sound that evoked the scent of cedar wood, apple pie baking in the oven, the faint rustle of the wind in the leaves, the sun lightly filtering through the trees. It was my first time hearing this relatively new ensemble. The performance was simply brilliant.
They chose material appropriate for this rather unique combination of players from 20th century repertoire: Malcolm Arnold (who knewâ€¦ he wrote the theme for Bridge on the River Kwai, the whistling titi, titati ti ti ta), Gordon Jacob, Alan Rideout, Arnold Bax, as well as household names likes Britten and Elgar but the winner was surprisingly the Fantasia on the Dargason from Gustav Holst (the Dargason being some kind of ancient English or Scottish dance) and both my friend Maude and I had tears in our eyes! It will be very interesting when they start commissioning composers â€“ apparently Martin Bresnick is next with upcoming oboe quartet.