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MUSIC REVIEW

Chamber Players show their heft

Boston Symphony Chamber Players
At: Jordan Hall yesterday afternoon

The Boston Symphony Chamber Players put on a big concert yesterday afternoon -- ''big" not because it was long, but because it featured works requiring 10 to 15 players. This kind of event is something the Chamber Players are especially well equipped to present, and they sounded more at home than they sometimes do in more intimate programs.

Eleven of the BSO's principal players participated in all or part of the program, with assistance from eight other BSO players, as well as two keyboard guests. BSO assistant conductor Ludovic Morlot led three of the four pieces.

The program was attractively laid out: Stravinsky's ''Dumbarton Oaks" Concerto paired with one of the pieces on which it is modeled, Bach's Third Brandenburg Concerto, and two works by Aaron Copland, ''Quiet City" and the ballet ''Appalachian Spring," the latter in the pit-band original version for 13 instruments.

BSO strings, with Mark Kroll at the harpsichord, led off with the Bach. The conductorless performance was spirited and accurate, but also heavy and emphatic, a rum-soaked fruitcake rather than a souffle. Morlot's presence might have lightened it up and provided more variety of dynamics and texture.

The conductor's keen ear and rhythmic sense brought much to the other pieces. ''Dumbarton Oaks" was written to mark a wedding anniversary, so the tone is celebratory, the progress of the music full of ingenuity, charm, surprise, and, in the slow movement, a sweetness not often associated with Stravinsky.

''Quiet City" is Copland's reworking of some incidental music he wrote for a play by Irwin Shaw in 1939; it depicts urban night thoughts, and the echoing lonely voices are those of trumpet (Charles Schlueter) and oboe (John Ferrillo). The oboist sounded more poised and flexible than the trumpeter, but at his best Schlueter offered a darkly plaintive quality of tone.

''Appalachian Spring" makes much of very simple, homespun materials; the title that choreographer Martha Graham chose for the dance comes from a poem by Hart Crane and was added to the music after it was composed, so Copland was always amused to hear people remark that the music made them see Appalachia in the spring or a spring in Appalachia.

The best tune, ''Simple Gifts," on which Copland rings some delightful changes, comes from Shaker tradition. Older members of the Shaker community at Sabbathday Lake in Maine recall it as a fast tune for dancing; Copland's take is more solemn and sentimental. Morlot and the players -- Vytas Baksys in the crucial piano part -- cradled the music tenderly and made it sing.

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