Manhattan Chamber Orchestra
The Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, one of New York's many ensembles of eager young freelancers, opened its sixth season on Wednesday evening with a program of accessibly melodic concertos by David Amram and Jacques Ibert. Both composers seem to be specialties of Richard Auldon Clark, the orchestra's music director. Mr. Amram's works have figured into many of the ensemble's programs, and the orchestra has just released a compact disk devoted to Ibert works it played last season.
Mr. Amram's "Honor Song for Sitting Bull" was the program's most exotic and inviting work. Long before it became fashionable to think multiculturalism. Amram began writing works that sought common ground between American Indian themes and European orchestral coloration. This latest installment in that series is a cello concerto, based on a traditional Sioux melody. The theme's contours have a mildly Oriental tinge, and its long phrases end with a quick. descending slide that recalls recordings of whale song.
First stated in the winds and brass, it becomes the subject of the solo cello line, which explores it in a series of variations. The orchestra moves gradually toward European colorations and rhetorical gestures, but the flavor of the Sioux melody resurfaces frequently. Nathaniel Rosen gave a warm, rich-toned account of the solo cello line.