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CHAMBER REVIEW
Valley of the Moon Music Festival: MENDELSSOHN PIANO TRIO / Sunday, August 2, 2015
Monica Huggett, violin

Cynthia Freivogel, violin

Tanya Tomkins, cello

Eric Zivian, fortepiano

Pianist Eric Zivian and Cellist Tanya Tomkins

FROTHY CHAMBER WORKS CONCLUDE VALLEY OF THE MOON FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER

by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 2, 2015

A closing concert for a summer music festival, even a new series such as the Valley of the Moon Music Festival (VMMF), should be a capstone for the series. The recent Chamberfest Concerts at the Green Music Center, with all six Bach Brandenburgs as the finale, are an example.

Artists at the Festival finished the seven-event set August 2 with three mostly light-hearted works that underscored the period instrumental Festival sound. An oddity began the concert, Mozartís B-Flat Major Piano Sonata (K. 570), with a violin obbligato part from an unknown composer. Spohr? Brdgetower? VMMF co-director Eric Zivian was at the replica 1795 piano and Cynthia Miller Freivogel played the violinís reinforcing line without providing any counterpoint.

Ms. Freivogel played constant interjections into the lovely fabric of Mozartís opening Allegro and Adagio with ritards only at the end of phrases and more projection in the concluding Allegretto. Though the new Hanna Boys Center hall is not large, the timid pre-1800 piano sound could be improved by moving the instrument in the future (it can be carried by four people) far closer to the audience.

Chopinís Introduction et Polonaise Brillante, Op. 3, was a surprise addition to the program, and received a performance of infectious rhythmic lift that played off a judicious tempo. Much more rubato and instrumental leaning into the delicious Polish dance cadences than the Mozart came from cellist Tanya Tomkins and Mr. Zivian. The subtle slides in the cello were a perfect fit for this frothy piece, and the audience of 150 responded with a standing ovation.

The Festivalís 1841-era piano was used for the Chopin as well as the Mendelssohn C-Minor Trio, Op. 66, that comprised the second half of the program.

The C Minor Trio is not as popular as the composerís famous D Minor Trio, and though it lacks none of Mendelssohnís signature ebullience and smooth panache, but with gut strings in the violin and cello and a fortepiano the music had small dimensions. But thatís okay and some clangor from the piano is effective. Violinist Monica Huggett joined Ms. Tomkins and Mr. Zivian in the opening Allegro energico that had drama but also for Ms. Huggett intonation problems. The dreamy Andante featured subtle string portamento and pensive interludes, and Ms. Tomkins played delicate crescendos and diminuendos and a fetching ending similar to many of the endings of Mendelssohnís Songs Without Words for solo piano.

The Scherzo was appropriately fleet and resembled the finale of the D Minor Trio in virtuosity. The finale of the C Minor had authority even when the bass register of the piano rattled, and tuning in the gut strings wavered. It was a vigorous finale, moving effortlesly in the coda to C Major and a compelling conclusion that elicited loud applause. There was a substantial sprinkling of young musicians in the audience and Mendelssohnís charming music proved seductive.

Contributing to the Festivalís success was professional management with attractive printed materials, a five-student apprentice program, computerized ticketing and an attentive staff. An encore Festival in 2016?