Fort Worth — In the PepsiCo Recital Hall in the Walsh Center for Performing Arts at the Texas Christian University School of Music on Thursday evening, an unparalleled display of talent impressed all those fortunate enough to attend. In the Mimir Chamber Music Festival’s 21st season, Executive Director Curt Thompson has assembled a program of highly interesting chamber music played by a collection of some of the best chamber musicians from around the world. The level of musicianship evident in the week-long concert series is not to be missed.
After a gracious welcome by Thompson, first on the program was Two Songs for Alto, Viola and Piano by Johannes Brahms. Since Brahms wrote it for his dear friend violinist Josepf Joachim and Josepf’s wife pianist Amalie Weiss it sounded as if the pianist was the composer himself celebrating their love. Pianist John Novacek, as Brahms, Heather Weirich, as Weiss, and violist Joan DerHovsepian, as Joachim. As the best of couples let each partner be themselves, the various lines between alto and viola were complimentary with interchangeable respect. Johannes must have been sympathetic to the struggles and happiness of Joseph and Amalie as the trio climbed together, peaked together, and relaxed together.
When the couple were expecting their first child Brahmas wrote for them a sacred lullaby, “Geistliches Wiegenlied” complete with a rocking cradle motion and a diminishing hush, hush, hush. Warm colors typical of Brahms interjoined the autumnal tones of alto, viola and piano. Violist Joan DerHovsepian, who played on every piece that night, made the impossible look and sound easy and divine.
Joining Novacek and DerHovsepian on the Quintet in F-sharp minor, Op. 67 by Amy Beach were violinists Laura Frautschi and Jun Iwasaki and cellist Brant Taylor. Tragically underappreciated by her family and current audiences, Beach was the first successful woman composer in America. Premiering 109 years ago, her mysterious quintet was honored Thursday night in the best way. High sustained unisons over dark piano clouds brought instant drama. Misdirections of harmonic progressions and springboards into variable textures were synchronized by these five players by some miraculous telepathy. A finely coordinated balance was struck with every passing beat in the Adagio espressivo. Acting as a whole while not sacrificing individuality, each player took a turn. Neither vision nor passion overtook finesse nor dexterity in these first-rate chamber musicians. Their skill at sensitivity nearly reached the supernatural. Violinist Laura Frautschi will play Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Don’t even think of missing her.
If music is therapy, Mendelssohn’s Quartet in A minor, Op. 13 was a session in soul searching. The best performers, be they in sports or other arts, ignore the distractions in their own psyches so that we can forget our troubles. The Adagio – Allegro vivace was elated dancing. The Adagio non lento was astounding subtlety. The Intermezzo: Allegretto con moto was a pristine chandelier. The Presto, heart-wrenching spectacle. If the saying goes, “The best wine in the world is the one in your glass,” then when played by these musicians of such extreme caliber the best string quartet in the world is the one you’re listening to.
What must have these compositions meant to the composers? What must this music mean to all the performers, underwriters and listeners? Since this is Mimir, that takes on students beginning professional careers through master classes and an Emerging Artists Concert on Friday evening, the question is also: what can this rare experience mean for the students?
If learning music lessons is learning life lessons, then a study of the interplay of chamber music could teach the following lessons: read the room, speak your mind, always listen closely, and the most important moment is the next one.
Finally, which task of cooperation requires the most camaraderie? Acting? Basketball? The answer, apparently, is chamber music.
Mimir Artists Concerts are: July 3, July 5, July 7 and July 8. All concerts are held at TCU's PepsiCo Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m., except for the July 8 performance, which will be 2:00 p.m. at the Kimbell’s Renzo Piano Pavilion.
7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 7
PepsiCo Recital Hall, TCU
2 p.m. Sunday, July 8
Renzo Piano Pavilion At The Kimbell Art Museum