High spirited

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High spirited

Winning pianist helps elevate mood on festival’s final weekend
Guillermo Figueroa conducts Symphony No. 3 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn on Saturday during Music in the Mountains’ penultimate concert of the season.
Music in the Mountains Conservatory winner Yeon Min Park thanks Katherine Freiberger for sponsoring Music in the Mountains’ “Classical Brilliance” concert Saturday at Durango Mountain Resort.
Guillermo Figueroa conducts Symphony No.3 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn on Saturday during Music in the Mountains’ penultimate concert of the season.
Newer works punctuate chamber music program

Kudos to Music in the Mountains this summer for gutsy chamber music programming. Add performers who love a challenge, enjoy playing together, know how to put on a show, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Last week, two unusual programs had all the elements of high-powered, virtuosic playtime. The audiences got it and enjoyed every note, phrase and musical gesture.
On Wednesday, the Clavier Trio mesmerized a sold-out Roshong Recital Hall with an energetic, sparks flying, all-Schubert program.
Performed in memory of John Freiberger, festival supporter and late husband of Katy Freiberger, the concert had an unusual opening. In all seriousness, the musicians appeared to begin the Schubert piece and then suddenly broke out in a B-flat major rendition of Happy Birthday. Pianist Korevaar blushed laughed, and accepted his colleagues’ tribute.
When real music making began, the ensemble played the Piano Trio No. 1 in B-flat Major, D898, a work Clavier recorded in 2004 before Jesús Castro-Balbi replaced Peter Steffens to join violinist Arkady Fomin and pianist David Korevaar. The joyous opening movement lifted into the air and 40 minutes later landed back home with its powerful messages of life energy and delight.
After intermission, the Trio added the even more challenging Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat, D929. The splendid variety of Schubert’s musical mind was more apparent as the musicians coursed through the trio’s complex passages, ending in a movement Jack Freiberger apparently loved. A fitting tribute, indeed.
Thursday night at the Festival Tent, a smaller but no-less-enthusiastic crowd heard perhaps the oddest musical pairing of the season.
Violist Barbara Westphal came from her base at Germany’s Lubeck College of Music to play works by de Falla and a composer few nonmusicians have heard of – Charles Loeffler. His Two Rhapsodies for Oboe, Viola, and Piano may have been obscure, but they are beautiful elegiac pieces that put one in mind of late Romanticism. With Erin Hannigan’s expressive oboe and David Korevaar’s elegant piano, Westphal’s viola added a midrange sweetness to a rich sonic texture.
The tent seemed too cavernous a space for this particular chamber trio, but it was just right for the new Festival Percussion Quartet. In the boldest stroke of the entire season, the quartet performed mostly ink-fresh works. Many of the composers are in mid-career with birthdates in the 1960s.
Quartet members gave brief introductions to each piece, just enough to open people’s ears and minds. Festival regulars John Pennington, Jonathan Latta, Steven Hemphill and James Doyle can be seen in the back of the big orchestral concerts. Thursday they set out an array of instruments and played marimba, xylophone, a variety of drums, shakers, and scrapers including ribbed gourds and even metal piping.
Among the edgy and often humorous works they played, Eugene Novotney’s “Scratch” surprised most people. Latta played solo scraper, reeling out complicated rhythms and periodically glancing at the audience like a co-conspirator. His band of three accompanists stood in a tight rank facing Latta, clearly delighting in every tempo change, dynamic shift, or sudden smack. Men at play.
A phalanx of front row enthusiasts got into the rhythmic fun. They happened to be the evening’s sponsors: people from Peak Energy, Goldman Robbins and Nicholson, and Trimble Crossing. Their groove seemed contagious.
The quartet followed with an old-fashioned ragtime xylophone tune titled “Chromatic Fox Trot.” Soloist Pennington fronted three marimba players smiling all the way. At the end, he saluted a former professor in the audience who taught the inimitable Pennington, he said, “everything I know.”
The quartet also played a dreamy four-marimba work titled “Sculpture in Wood.” It would have been at home in any modern jazz lounge. And after Séjourné’s whiff of an opener, the marimbists performed a hypnotizing 10-minute piece by Nigel Westlake. Filled with mystery and minimalist repetitions, “Omphalo Centric Lecture” spun out a dense sonic tapestry.
The evening ended with Augusto Marcellino’s “Choro No.9,” a tuneful combination of Portuguese sadness and joy, accented by bossa nova and African rhythms. Complex, colorful, fun to watch and hear, the work closed an innovative and enjoyable concert.

High spirited

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Guillermo Figueroa conducts Symphony No. 3 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn on Saturday during Music in the Mountains’ penultimate concert of the season.
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Music in the Mountains Conservatory winner Yeon Min Park thanks Katherine Freiberger for sponsoring Music in the Mountains’ “Classical Brilliance” concert Saturday at Durango Mountain Resort.
Purchase
Guillermo Figueroa conducts Symphony No.3 in A Minor by Felix Mendelssohn on Saturday during Music in the Mountains’ penultimate concert of the season.
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