The two most interesting portions of the program came on either side of its intermission. Prior to the interval, Piffaro’s shawms, sackbuts and dulcians played Kile Smith’s Red-tail and Hummingbird. Following the break, it was the chance for a brass quintet plus bassoon from Orchestra 2001 to perform the Philadelphia-based composer’s score. Piffaro’s musicians played without a conductor while Smith led the modern players.
Piffaro then paired an excerpt from Smith’s Vespers (commissioned in 2007) with Praetorius’ “Christ lag in Todesbanden.” Played from the church’s loft, the sound of the old instruments floated out over the audience as it must have done in centuries past in the Praetorius and with a sweetness in the Smith that reminded me just how lovely a work his Vespers truly is.