Fort Worth — North Texas is lucky to have the Mimir Chamber Music Festival in Fort Worth at PepsiCo Recital Hall on the Texas Christian University campus each summer. It’s an oasis in what can be something of a summertime classical music desert. The festival offered five regular concerts this year, plus two Emerging Artist recitals for young performers.
The last of the concerts, on Friday evening, featured the Horszowski Trio, consisting of Jesse Mills, violin; Raman Ramakrishnan, cello; and Rieko Aizawa, piano. To open the program, they performed Haydn’s Trio in G Major, No. 25, called the “G*psy.” (If you’re wondering why I don’t spell out the name, see this.) Apart from a few balance issues this was an excellent performance. Ramakrishnan has a beautiful tone, but simply does not have as big a sound as Mills, especially when the latter is in the violin’s highest register. When the cello should have been foregrounded, he was often partially covered by the violin and, to a lesser degree, the piano. Aizawa has a formidable technique and, in general, admirable restraint in this repertoire. However, ensemble and technique were rock-solid, and the final movement, a Rondo in the Hungarian style, was a blisteringly fast romp.
Also on the first half of the program was 20th-century Armenian composer Arno Babajanian’s Trio in F-sharp minor. This trio is probably Babajanian’s best-known work, and for good reason. It is melodic, indeed Romantic, and filled with groaning intensity. The first movement evokes grief, regret, and sorrow; the second, which begins with a lyrical violin solo supported by the piano, continues this theme of yearning, while the last movement is a madcap romp requiring exceptionally precise ensemble and technique. This was unfamiliar repertoire to most in the audience, judging by chatter overheard at intermission, but the trio’s fine playing seemed to have won listeners over.
After intermission, the trio added a violist, Wenhong Luo, and a second violinist, Mimir Festival Executive Director Curt Thompson, for Johannes Brahms’ magnificent Piano Quintet in F minor. Often, this piece is performed with a pre-existing string quartet, and it is the pianist who is the “add-on.” Adding two string players instead created the first intonation difficulties of the night. It’s not especially surprising that the ensemble would lose some of its coherence under these circumstances, but given the caliber of the players, the pitch issues in particular were unexpected. That said, it was a thrilling, powerful performance, with Luo particularly bringing a rich, potent viola sound to the mix.
Attendance at Mimir concerts tends to be robust; the 325-seat PepsiCo Recital Hall is usually nearly full of what apparently are mostly seasoned concertgoers, and Friday evening was no exception. There usually are at least some seats available, though, so if you haven’t been to a Mimir concert, I recommend you make plans to do so next summer.