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Curt Thompson

Making Mimir

The Mimir Chamber Music Festival is back at Texas Christian University. Founder Curt Thompson talks about what to expect.



published Thursday, July 2, 2015

Photo: Mimir Chamber Music Festival
Mimir Chamber Music Festival

Fort Worth — For those of us who complain, rightly so, about the dearth of music of our time on concert programs, this summer’s Mimir festival is an answered prayer. It will also send us critics scampering to our research libraries to prepare for such a marvelously intriguing collection of programs. Check out the programming for the festival at the end of this article, and you’ll see that the old masters happily reside next to modern ones.

This really is the oft sought, but rarely found, “something for everyone.”

Mimir, which begins Thursday at Texas Christian University, has two tracks for the concerts. One features the highly distinguished group of string players and the other is the already-formed advanced student chamber music groups that come here to study with them.

“One outstanding group is the Calla Quartet from Los Angeles’ Colburn Conservatory of Music,” says Curt Thompson, violinist and Artistic Director of Mimir. “They took Silver [Prize] at the recent Fischoff Competition.”

(The Fischoff is one of the premiere competitions for chamber music ensembles that takes place in early May. It was founded in 1973 in South Bend, Indiana, and now claims to be the largest chamber music competition in the world.)

Photo: Mimir Chamber Music Festival
Curt Thompson

Thompson is the considerable energy behind the concert series, which he founded in 1998. At the time, he was on the faculty of TCU. A few years ago, he moved to Melbourne, Australia, which was unsettling when announced. However, fears that he would take it with him proved to be, fortunately, unfounded. It only added another venue to the series. Mimir is now presented twice each summer: once in Fort Worth and again down under.

“Moving from Fort Worth was a very difficult decision for me,” he says. “My friends are here and my family is close by.  Still, the lure of new challenges in a fascinating country like Australia was a bit difficult to resist, at least for now—we’ll be back. Mimir’s home is most definitely in Fort Worth.”

Mimir has developed a loyal base of supporters and audience over the years. The Melbourne outpost seemed like something new that Mimir could explore.

“Melbourne’s Mimir is becoming a huge success, but its roots will remain in Fort Worth and at TCU," Thompson adds.

The list of artists is impressive, to say the least.

There are Grammy-nominated recording artists and members of the Chicago Symphony, Houston Symphony, Nashville Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, and faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Melbourne Conservatory of Music, the Rice University Shepherd School of Music and the TCU School of Music. Many are concertmasters (Frank Huang is the newly appointed concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic) or principal chairs (Steven Rose is principal second violin in The Cleveland Orchestra).

One intriguing addition is Nicolas Tsolainos, principal bass of the DSO. The bass only makes rare appearances in chamber music. You can hear him in the fifth concert on July 10. Pianists Alessio Bax and John Novacek are local favorites who will play in Mimir this summer. We hear both of them frequently as they continue their international concert careers.

“Our two most important considerations each summer are personnel and repertoire,” Thompson says. “Mimir has an advantage over many summer festivals because we maintain a fairly consistent roster of artists, and I must say that this collection of musicians is fairly difficult to top. While we might not have seen each other for a year in some cases, when we sit down for the first rehearsal we already have a level of familiarity, trust and synergy.”

That synergy is a big part of the magic that brings full houses to TCU every summer. The Metroplex is graced with lots of excellent chamber music during the concert season and it well supported. Mimir brings us two weeks of concerts by outstanding artists, established and emerging, in the middle of the summer heat when local classical music artists usually retreat to play in festivals in cooler climes.

The series opens on July 2 at 7:30 in TCU’s PepsiCo Recital Hall. Other artist’s concerts are on the evenings of July 3, 7 and 10, and a 2 p.m. matinee takes place on July 5 in the Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Art Museum. On July 6 and 9, at 7:30 in PepsiCo, Mimir features emerging artist ensembles. There are three master classes, open to the public at no charge, on July 3, 4, and 6 at 10:30 a.m.

Photo: Lisa-Marie Mazzucco
Pianist Alessio Bax

 

Here's the schedule and repertoire:

 

CONCERT ONE

Thursday, July 2, 7:30 p.m.

 

Franz Schubert (1797-1828): Grand Duo in A Major, D. 574                                        

Frank Huang, violin

Alessio Bax, piano

 

Franz Schubert: Quartet in A minor, D. 804

Frank Huang and Curt Thompson, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

intermission

 

Anton Arensky (1861-1906): Trio in D minor, Op. 32

Stephen Rose, violin

Brant Taylor, cello

Alessio Bax, piano

 

 

CONCERT TWO

Friday, July 3, 7:30 p.m.

 

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975): Trio No. 1 in C minor, Op. 8

Stephen Rose, violin

Brant Taylor, cello

Alessio Bax, piano

 

Kenji Bunch (b. 1973): Quartet No. 2, “Concussion Theory”                                   

Curt Thompson and Frank Huang, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

intermission

 

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827): Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

Frank Huang and Stephen Rose, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

 

CONCERT THREE

Sunday, July 5, 2 p.m.

Renzo Piano Pavilion, Kimbell Art Museum

 

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967): Serenade for String Trio, Op. 12

Stephen Rose and Curt Thompson, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

 

Jean Sibelius (1865-1957): Quartet in D minor, Op. 56

Stephen Rose and Frank Huang, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

intermission

 

Béla Bartók (1881-1945): Quartet No. 1, Op. 7

Frank Huang and Stephen Rose, violins

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

 

CONCERT FOUR

Tuesday, July 7, 7:30 p.m.

 

Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992): Thème et Variations

Jun Iwasaki, violin

John Novacek, piano

 

Clara Schumann (1819-1896): Three Romances, Op. 22

Joan DerHosepian, viola

John Novacek, piano

 

Frank Bridge (1879-1941): Phantasy Piano Quartet in F-sharp minor

Jun Iwasaki, violin

Joan DerHovsepian, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

John Novacek, piano

 

intermission

 

Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904): Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 97

Frank Huang and Curt Thompson, violins

Joan DerHovsepian and Misha Galaganov, violas

Brant Taylor, cello

 

 

CONCERT FIVE

Friday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.

 

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809): Quartet in F Major, Op. 77 No. 2

Jun Iwasaki and Curt Thompson, violins

Misha Galaganov, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

 

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939): Quintet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Contrabass and Piano

Jun Iwasaki, violin

Misha Galaganov, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

Bass, TBD

John Novacek, piano

 

intermission

 

Ernst von Dohnány (1877-1960): Quintet in C minor, Op. 1 

Curt Thompson and Jun Iwasaki, violins

Misha Galaganov, viola

Brant Taylor, cello

John Novacek, piano

 Thanks For Reading




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Making Mimir
The Mimir Chamber Music Festival is back at Texas Christian University. Founder Curt Thompson talks about what to expect.
by Gregory Sullivan Isaacs

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