Takashi Yoshimatsu's Dream Colored Mobile is either extremely beautiful, pensive and meaningful, or extremely beautiful, pensive and absolutely vapid. No matter how you feel about the piece, it was valuable for saxophonist Jonathan Wintringham on Saturday night to have programmed anything by the contemporary Japanese composer, notable for writing the music for the 2003 TV anime remake of Astro Boy, and as rare as hen's teeth in our town.
Wintringham, now on the Astral Artists roster, is going to be fun to have around. His January Philadelphia recital debut (more Yoshimatsu) was snowed out and rescheduled for May. But Saturday night at the Trinity Center, he was woven into a French chamber music program, and emerged as a saxophonist of unusual sophistication. The Yoshimatsu is true to its title, with four string players sustaining gliding parts while a harpist (Caroline Cole) gives off colors and motion. It's schmaltzy stuff, and although Yoshimatsu doesn't always make the most obvious harmonic choice, he mostly does, and the piece grates as much as it charms.
Wintringham had the melody, sensitively done. But the piece in which the full measure of the player could be appreciated was Cantilène et Danse by Marc Eychenne. Scored for violin, piano and sax, the piece had Wintringham changing his color in ways so sensitive that he bordered on alchemist. His opening notes resembled a French horn for all the overtones produced, and elsewhere he was a ghostly wisp that seemed to defy the stocky tone with which we might assume saxophonists are stuck.
Canny he was, too, for picking the Eychenne, a piece bearing the influence of César Franck, whose Piano Quintet in F Minor formed the program's second half. Earlier, Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp was disappointingly inert, but the Franck was hot-blooded and full of a certain frisson whose source could often be traced to pianist Hugh Sung. With violinists Nikki Chooi (Time for Three's new member) and Eunice Kim, violist Ayane Kozasa and cellist Timotheos Petrin, the group reached full strength in the second movement. Chooi had a beautiful sense of phrasing in his opening melody, and the ensemble added a layer of desperate ambiguity as the music slipped between major and minor. It was a youthful interpretation, but in the best sense.