There is a vast, rich musical world in Rochester beyond the walls of the Eastman School of Music and Kodak Hall. Cordancia Chamber Orchestra drove this point home last Friday at the Finger Lakes Community College Auditorium with a fascinating program of obscure orchestral gems written by important, mostly underappreciated composers.
The program began with “Trois Petites Pièces Montées” by Erik Satie, a French fin de siècle composer best known for his charming, enigmatic, and minimalist piano miniatures. Satie’s knack for writing mysterious curiosities was fully evident here, but there was an additional folksiness that isn’t typically heard in the composer’s more popular, urbane works. These “three little pieces” were provincial and light-hearted, even humorous at times in their use of extreme shifts in timbre and range.
The unequivocal highlight of the concert was Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3, in which conductor Rachel Lauber and the orchestra were joined by piano soloist Ines Draskovic. The pianist’s performance was deceptively commanding: with decisive articulation and emphatic lyricism, Draskovic’s playing never suffered from indulgent grandstanding, which allowed the listener to focus on the seemingly limitless poignancy of the music.
In light of this humbly virtuosic display, it would have been an easy mistake to overlook the vitality of Cordancia’s performance — the unity of sound and intentionality of phrasing never overshadowed Draskovic, but instead provided ubiquitous support that was well-balanced with the soloist. Overall, the concerto possessed the quality of a fever dream, one that would have been welcome to last the length of the entire program.
Anatoly Lyadov’s “Eight Russian Folk Songs” is the loveliest suite you’ve never heard before. A pupil of Rimsky-Korsakov and a teacher to Prokofiev, Lyadov imbued his brief vignettes with a rustic yet refined authenticity. From the ardent beauty of the cellos in “Melancholy Song” to the heroic and endearing “Legend of the Birds” and the playful pizzicato strings of “Dance Song,” Lyadov’s music was an ideal choice for Cordancia.
The concert concluded with Jacques Ibert’s “Suite Symphonique ‘Paris.’” Even in his quaint depictions of city life, there was something oddly impressionistic present. In a program that offered an uninterrupted flow of delightful music, Ibert’s creation was a fitting way to end the evening. With holiday concerts coming up in December, plus a concerto competition concert in February that also features music from Latin America, as well as a chamber music program in May, Cordancia Chamber Orchestra will be worth paying attention to throughout the season.