You couldn’t have pined for a more suitable haven against the stifling heat of the evening. That well cooled and cushioned refuge was Bosendorfer Hall, concert venue of Ruggero Piano, purveyor of instruments as fine as they are numerous. Performing were the Mallarmé Chamber Players, constituting the latest edition of the Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival.
An initial creation of the Brussels Chamber Orchestra, this Festival comprises “a small, but dynamic, European Orchestra, a couple of outstanding international soloists and some wonderful local talent from the North Carolina Symphony and the Mallarmé Chamber Players.” (The quotation is from their excellent brochure detailing all of the season’s numerous presentations.)
Guest flutist Les Roettges, violinist Jeremy Preston and pianist Jeremy Thompson opened with Bohuslav Martinu’s Madrigal-Sonata for flute, violin and piano. The quirky first movement led to the Moderato, a movement lacking in moderation, particularly toward the end. It was marked by melodic flute solos, while proving to be quite a workout for all three players.
Suzanne Rousso’s viola replaced the piano for Beethoven’s Serenade in D for flute, violin and viola in six movements. That composer was never more “playful” than in the Intrata: Allegro. “Molto” and “vivace” were the operative descriptions throughout. But did Beethoven ever write anything more sublime than the early lines of the “Andante con variazioni” as the violin/viola duo is eventually joined by the flute? (Well, possibly in the closing Adagio section.) This piece suggests that Beethoven must have been mad at some local flutist acquaintance, so hard does he work that instrument. Roettges’ performance here (as in the opener) indicated that he possesses the stamina to match his celebrated skills. His break from the action during the second half was well earned.
Anyone who had not recently heard Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor probably didn’t remember what a “huge” work it can be. Cellist Nathan Leyland joined the piano and higher strings for an altogether splendid offering. Here was no mini-concerto for piano and strings. Fauré seems to have been partial to each instrument from time to time. Especially notable was the Adagio, in which the players swap off to one another the gorgeous melodies. The work has likely never received a more spirited or more precise treatment.
So the third season of the Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival has presented truly world-class artistry. On this evening, five world-class musicians have collaborated to extend that (brief) tradition.