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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Capriccio Ensemble

Historical Performances Dept.: When I moved to Schenectady in 1980 to work for WMHT-FM, among my very first callers was violinist Natalie Kriegler, with news of an upcoming concert. She soon enough migrated to Manhattan, and founded the Capriccio Ensemble, which is still going strong. Here’s my review of a 1987 performance in her natal city.


THE CAPRICCIO ENSEMBLE made its Schenectady debut yesterday afternoon at the Trinity United Methodist Church with a program intended for the group's regular playing area, greater Manhattan. With any luck, we should get their previews regularly.

Violinist Natalie Kriegler, a former Schenectady resident, founded the group three years ago for chamber music performance, and has been working the small clubs and private parties route in and out of the New York City area. With the ambition of moving into a more formal format, yesterday's concert featured three contrasting Baroque works, showing Kriegler as soloist and ensemble player.

Telemann's Quartet in D Major is taken from the #Parisian" Quartets of the early 18th century. The instrumentation added flutist Amy Kriegler (joining her sister in the group), cellist Page Smith Weaver and harpsichordist Jocelyn Stewart.

This must be what it was like in the first days of a group like the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Several musicians of similar temperament eager to share an up-to-date performance of old pieces. The four young players took a delight in showing off their technical skills and their ability to create a warm, energetic balance.

Vibratos are well matched; dynamics have plenty of bounce: no slow-moving old greybeard is this Telemann!

In the slower movements there was a need for more careful honing of chords and ideas; it's clear that this group has no wish to give a traditional, dry performance (and Telemann's works certainly invite that), so that even the slowest movement needs a well-defined pulse.

To hear Vivaldi's Concerto for Two Violins in a minor, Op. 3 No. 8, is to marvel yet again at those female orphans he wrote for. As played by Natalie Kriegler and Peter VanDewater, it was a showpiece, sometimes competitive, sometimes with a marvellous confluence between the soloists, who combined distinct, technically-correct voices into an interpretation with fire and soul.

The slow middle movement featured a lush close-harmony melody played over the leisurely throb of the ensemble, a group that included violinists Robert Lawrence and Julie Marden, violist Kenneth Edwards, cellist Weaver, bassist Dean Crandall and harpsichordist Stewart.

Most ambitious of the program was Bach's Concerto for Oboe and Violin in c minor, BWV 1060. Kriegler was joined by oboist Elizabeth McCracken, a player with a gorgeous tone and ability to match.

There's a sense of rightness when Bach goes well, and it was true during this performance. Although the players still must refine their presentation, it's clear that the big problems are out of the way.

And, while there are certainly enough freelancers around Manhattan to get together for some good chamber music performance, it's so important for an ensemble like this one to work at discovering the heart of the pieces in question: only then does the music come to life.

– Schenectady Daily Gazette, 30 November 1987

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