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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘The Coach Maker’s Legacy’ is pure pleasure

William Berry Correspondent

Who knew historic music could be so lively? Allegro’s presentation of “The Coach Maker’s Legacy” Friday night at The Met was a refreshingly innovative way to present an assortment of chamber music spanning three centuries.

The addition of a dramatic element to the performance was probably unnecessary for the enjoyment of the music, but it tied the various eras of music together quite nicely. The pretense of a story line was a pleasant change from the ubiquitous talk-and-play format, and, frankly, the chamber music of the periods represented – late Renaissance through Classical – hardly needs any introduction or explanation.

Damon Abdallah, as the fictitious musician Casper Michael Heineken, interspersed monologues that described his family history and its relationship with music. Sandra Hosking’s script was hardly vested with intrigue or conflict, but provided the proper light tone to bridge the gaps between musical numbers and keep the focus on the love of music.

Abdallah brought a good bit of personality to the reading and was equally relaxed and entertaining whether things went right – which they did for the most part – or wrong. In period costume, he came striding out to announce the birth of his son – “He’s here!” – just as his microphone pack shook loose of its moorings. So he added, “And my microphone is here!” and without dropping a beat went on with the monologue in character.

As for the musical portion of the evening, one could hardly ask for better. A quartet of top-flight early music specialists came together to present a stellar performance. Individually and in variously configured ensembles, the musicians sparkled and brought the music to life.

Janet See’s wooden flute conveyed the most transcendental sound of the four, with an indescribable sweetness and warmth. Everything about her playing, both musically and technically, was dead-on and enough to take the listener to another world.

Shira Kammen was equally adept in representing the string family, performing on violin and viola da gamba. The early strings are less strident than the modern version but every bit as nimble and, in Kammen’s hands, more able to dance, as well.

We are familiar with David Dutton, as co-artistic director of Allegro and perennial performer. He was at the top of his game Friday night, perhaps spurred on by the caliber of his cohorts. The blend between the flute and the oboe especially, but also with the violin when played in trio, was birdlike in the sweetest, most satisfactory way.

Accompanying these instruments were two harpsichords, one Italian and one Flemish. Kraig Scott held forth on the Italian replica for the first half of the concert, then traded it in for the Flemish. The Italian instrument had a more aggressive side, which seemed to work well for the dance-like nature of the earlier music. The Flemish model was softer, sweeter and more sophisticated, a fit for the larger forms of the later works.

Scott was absolutely assured at the keyboard as accompanist, leader or soloist. His moment alone in the spotlight, the Sweelinck “Variations,” showed strength and absolute precision. The technical demands of the piece were negotiated with ease, allowing the music to come to the fore.

The Graun Trio Sonata and the J.C. Bach Quartet, which ended the program, exemplified the instruments’ blend. Neither piece, nor really anything on the program, was earth-shattering, life-changing music, yet it consumed the moments it was being played with pure pleasure.