Fort Worth — The last of the Mimir Chamber Music Festival concerts happened Friday evening in Fort Worth. PepsiCo Recital Hall was mostly full for this recital, and with good reason—the Mimir Festival brings together some of the best orchestral string players and concert pianists for intimate chamber music concerts.
For this final program, the concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony, Jun Iwasaki, joined Chicago Symphony cellist Brant Taylor and pianist John Novacek for the Chausson Trio in G minor, Op. 3. The group produced a wide range of tonal colors and dynamics and some beautiful lyrical playing in the third movement. Brant Taylor, in particular, creates a consistently delightful cello sound—full, rich, and luscious. Both string players were able to evoke an intense sound without sounding forced or crunchy, and Novacek had sufficient self-restraint not to overpower his compatriots, making space for the others without sacrificing his own expressiveness.
Iwasaki and Novacek joined violinist and festival Executive Director Curt Thompson in Moritz Mozskowski’s Suite for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 71. Mozskowski’s music is seldom performed today, in part because by the early 20th century, he was still composing in a steadfastly Romantic style, a style by then superceded by early Modernism. While the performance had some untidy spots, and the composition is on the whole enjoyable but rather bland, the molto vivace ending is a romp, which Iwasaki, Thompson, and Novacek played to the hilt, bows and fingers flying. I’m not sure the ending is enough justification for the whole, but it certainly elicited whoops and hollers from the audience.
The best-known work on the program was Dvořák’s Quartet in F Major, Op. 96, the “American,” for which Iwasaki, Thompson, and Taylor collaborated with Lyric Opera of Chicago principal violist Carol Cook. This piece, like so much of Dvořák’s music, uses American folk tunes as inspiration, although there is critical debate as to what those folk tunes might have been.
This quartet is a boon for violists—unusually, the viola gets the initial statement of the first theme in the first movement. Cook’s sound was big enough and her tone was attractive. Still, throughout, the musicians chose less rustic articulations than are usually found in this homage to folk music. The third movement, a scherzo in which Dvořák tried to reproduce the song of the scarlet tanager in the first violin, was appropriately glistening and sparkly in Iwasaki’s hands.
The Mimir Chamber Music Festival has yet again been a gift to Fort Worth.