Fort Worth — The chamber music of Russian composer Anton Arensky is currently enjoying a resurgence after decades of unjustified neglect. Arensky wrote in the Romantic idiom, and his music has long been thought to be merely derivative of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov and of Tchaikovsky. While Tchaikovsky once wrote in a letter to Rimsky-Korsakov that “Arensky has infinite affection and respect for you,” the sentiment seems not to have been returned. Stravinsky, another of Rimsky-Korsakov’s students, quoted their mutual teacher as having said, “Arensky did very little, and that little will soon be forgotten.”
Clearly, if Rimsky-Korsakov did indeed say such a thing, his prediction was mistaken. Although the dashingly handsome Arensky died from tuberculosis at age 44, and his compositional output was indeed small, a few pieces are being recovered from obscurity. Chief among these is his marvelous Piano Trio in D minor, Op. 32.
One Thursday, the musicians of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival provided listeners with at least the second Fort Worth performance of Arensky’s Trio this season. (The Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth presented the first in March.)
Violinist Stephen Rose, cellist Brant Taylor, and pianist Alessio Bax provided a creditable rendering of the trio. Highlights included Taylor’s rich, elegant sound in the opening of the third movement Elegie. Later in the movement, however, the mood was relaxed and lyrical; it could have used a bit more intensity. All three musicians also dropped a few of the (admittedly zillions) of notes in the fast-paced Finale. These are small quibbles, though— the overall picture the three musicians painted was an appealing one, further solidifying Arensky’s emerging reputation.
The remainder of the program consisted of two works by Schubert—the Grand Duo in A Major for violin and piano D. 574 and the String Quartet in A minor, “Rosamunde,” D. 804. The new appointee as concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic, Frank Huang, joined Bax for the duo. Both Huang and Bax demonstrated admirable technical precision, although while Bax created a variety of tonal colors, Huang seemed strangely limited.
The quartet, which featured violinist Curt Thompson, violist Joan DerHovsepian, and cellist Brant Taylor in addition to Huang, was more successful. DerHovsepian and Taylor are both alumni of the Everest Quartet, so are accustomed to playing together. The happy result: all four members of the quartet sounded as if they had performed together for ages. The ensemble had an ear for detail, emphasizing an unexpected harmony here, a surprising rhythm there. The performance was affectingly expressive, and all four musicians, especially Huang, captured the largely melancholic character of the piece.
The Mimir Chamber Music Festivals is one of the jewels of the Fort Worth classical music scene. It is an opportunity to hear world-class musicians, many of whom spend most of the year playing in orchestras or performing as soloists, in a chamber music setting. The festival continues through July 10. Go to any of the concerts if you can.
» Read about this year's Mimir Chamber Music Festival here, which also has a schedule with complete repertoire.
» Mimir continues with concerts at 7:30 p.m. 7 and 10 in TCU's PepsiCo Recital Hall, and 2 p.m. 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.