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Cross Currents Chamber Music Arts Festival is back for a third year of bringing international and local talent together into an ambitious synthesis of near and far, one and many, and old and new. The vision of the festival is impressive enough, but when the top-notch quality of the performers is taken into account, the music that is created in ten hot days of July becomes a force to be reckoned with.
The Brussels Chamber Orchestra collaborated again with members of the NC Symphony. Dovid Friedlander was back again, this year joined by Bonnie Thron. The BCO, however, opened alone with Mozart’s playful, lilting Divertimento, K. 136. The tight sectional dynamics and precise phrasing called for served to show the BCO’s almost uncanny communication to a brilliant advantage. The Andante allowed the musicians to display more delicacy as well as a careful balance that brought out the lovely interplay between the different voices. The Presto was played a bit more on the side of prestissimo, but the breathless pace was energizing, and entailed no sacrifice of precision. The dynamic contrast between the phrases was compelling. While the quality of the shaping of the piano phrases was not as excellent as the forte, the raucously enthusiastic cicadas may have contributed to difficulty of creating dramatic shaping at a low dynamic level.
Bonnie Thron presented Georg Matthias Monn’s Concerto for Cello in G minor. Monn (1717-1750), a Viennese composer, was an instrumental figure in the development of symphonic and sonata form. The concerto itself provides an interesting study of the creation of contrapuntal lines on a solo instrument. The piece is full of pedal points and covers a wide range, making good use of the lower register; Thron handled the technical challenges with flair. Many of the soli sections are, in actuality, a cello duet. Mario Villuendas, the founder and artistic director of BCO, provided an elegant secondary line that complemented the soloist beautifully without a hint of distraction. Thron’s tone in the Adagio section was, at times, a bit thin, but her sustained energy and power throughout the Allegro non tanto was impressive.
Three Préludes by George Gershwin provided an excellent example of the sort of intersection that the Cross Currents festival explores. Gershwin’s capitalization on the gray area between jazz, popular, and classical music made an admirable choice for a festival incorporating both jazz and classical ensembles. Dovid Freidlander somehow made Gershiwn’s piano writing seem idiomatic for violin, with lavish portamento and dramatic note-shaping. The murmuring unrest of the "Andante con moto e poco rubato" was more suited to a chamber orchestra accompaniment, and a cross-sectional pizzicato arpeggio rose seamlessly to end the movement.
The last piece, Gustav Holst’s St. Paul Suite, Op. 29, No.2, was an audience favorite. With a toe-tapping combination of dance rhythms and unusual metrical variations, and tuneful melodies supported by unconventional accompaniments, how could such a combination of familiar and surprising be otherwise? The BCO again demonstrated phenomenal communication, especially in the last movement as the theme is tossed from section to section. The tight sectional unity and imitation allowed the subtle timbre variations to shine, and brought out Holst’s quotation from “Greensleeves” while still sustaining the theme throughout the metrical and melodic conflict. A section of the Finale was presented again as an encore, to the delight of all.
The final concert of the Cross Chamber Music Arts Festival is Sunday, July 11, and will feature cello soloist Garvriel Lipkind and some wonderful repertoire. Check our calendar for details.