On a near-perfect evening last night, The Knights—Colin and Eric Jacobsen's ambitious "flexible orchestra"—performed at Central Park's Naumburg Bandshell, now in its 114th season. The mostly geriatric older audience packed every one of the 1,500 available seats for a wide-ranging program that opened with music by Bach—both J.S. and C.P.E.—and Stravinsky.
After intermission, they acknowledged Benjamin Britten's centenary with a performance of his rarely heard Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, featuring Michael P. Atkinson on horn and the fast-rising Nicholas Phan, who was pitch-perfect in his tender, yearning delivery. If Phan is this strong in Britten's concert music, it surely can only be a matter of time before we see him on the opera stage. (Messrs. Gelb and Steel: Are you listening?)
But the real surprise came at the end, when The Knights went free-form with ...the ground beneath our feet: a melange of everything from free jazz to bluegrass and calypso. At the end, violinist Christina Courtin—who moonlights as a successful singer-songwriter—came front and center with her cuatro to sing an uplifting song about overcoming adversity. Who knew we were in for an indie show?