Music lovers in New York City, London and Paris would have been jealous of Durango over the weekend. It was the finale of a Music in the Mountains season that has had concert-goers raving from beginning to end.
Vadim Gluzman and Philippe Quint – two of the finest violinists of their generation – performed, between them, three outstanding concerts, starting with the much-anticipated “Fast and Furious,” on Thursday, billed as a duel.
After being fortunate enough to see both of their previous “duels,” first in a private concert and then reprised at the festival several years ago, I wasn’t sure if two violinists “duking it out” was truly as remarkable as I remembered, but my memory rang true. Two virtuosos of a similar age, both playing Stradivarii, is a rare occurrence.
The audience reaped the rewards then and now, with both Gluzman and Quint playing with a command and maturity we have seen growing since the earliest years of their careers.
If more classical music performances were like this one, concert organizers wouldn’t have to worry so much about attracting younger audiences. Two brilliant, trash-talking, funny, young violinists showcasing their distinctive talents led Music in the Mountains President John Anderson to remark, “It’s amazing to find two stand-up comedians with so much musical talent.”
They played separately and together, sometimes accompanied by Gabriel Sanchez on piano. Exquisitely technical classical music was paired with “La Cucaracha” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Big Star” among the offerings.
My only complaint? It would have been fun to see Music in the Mountains Musical Director Guillermo Figueroa, also a fine violinist, on the stage for at least one number for a trifecta of Stradivarii, the magnificent violins made in the late 1600s and early 1700s. Maybe next time.
After the simple purity of just violinists and piano, Quint and Gluzman each stepped up to the grandeur of playing with the full Festival Orchestra over the weekend. Both concerts were played to virtually sold-out halls.
Saturday’s concert at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College was dedicated to the memory of Arkady Fomin, founder and longtime artistic director of Conservatory Music in the Mountains.
The Festival Orchestra began the evening with a solemn and clearly heartfelt “Enigma” Variation IX “Nimrod” by Edward Elgar – not in the program, but perfect for the occasion. Proving once again that top-notch musicians can turn out a top-notch performance with only one rehearsal, they went on to delight with Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 8 in F, Opus 93.”
And then it was time for Gluzman and “the Brahms,” as he calls it: Johannes Brahms’ only violin concerto, “Violin Concerto in D Major, Opus 77,” which was composed for his friend violinist Joseph Joachim. Joachim himself composed the intricate cadenza Gluzman showcased with great tenderness and finesse at the end of the first movement.
“Do people know what they’re hearing here?” Artistic Director Gregory Hustis asked. “You won’t hear it played better anywhere.”
Just as the Elgar piece was a fitting way to begin a memorial concert, Gluzman had the perfect way to end it for the man he called, “his friend, teacher and confidant.” A Shostakovich polka and one of Fomin’s favorites, it was a celebration of life, of joy, of music. (And the only time Figueroa resorted to a score.)
Quint, determined not to be outdone, presented a concert that could only be described as a “Wow!” on Sunday, first shining on the plaintive “The Red Violin – Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra” before moving from hauntingly lovely to demonstrating why the concert was billed as “Red Hot Violin” on Ravel’s “Tzigane, rapsodie de concert.”
Then, just to remind us this orchestra never drops a beat, the Festival Orchestra danced us out of the 28th Music in the Mountains with the “march” of von Suppé’s “Light Cavalry Overture,” the waltz from Strauss’ “Tales from the Vienna Woods” and four of Figueroa’s favorite Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances.”
The only thing missing was a ball gown.