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Colorado College Summer Music Festival in top form

by David Sckolnik Special to The Gazette - Updated: June 20, 2014 at 8:15 pm 0

The 30th season of the Colorado College Summer Music Festival has reached its midway point. And although circumstances threatened to derail the music making, Thursday night's Faculty Artists Concert at Packard Hall kicked its quality and excitement into high gear.

In a testament to the artistic beachhead that music director Susan Grace and her colleagues have established, the loss of two key musicians, faculty violinists Steven Moeckel and Daniel Phillips (Moeckel to a fractured wrist and Phillips to double pneumonia), was brilliantly handled.

Joining clarinetist Bil Jackson, violinist Stefan Hersh, violist Ginny Barron, cellist David Ying and pianist Jon Nakamatsu for Prokofiev's "Overture on Hebrew Themes" was highly lauded violinist Ellen dePasquale, brought in to bolster the depleted roster. Jackson's smooth clarinet set the mood for this atypical composition from the Russian "enfant terrible." Flawless and patient playing produced a charming aura with Barron's viola matching Jackson as a creamy lead voice.

The sonic picture dramatically shifted for Verne Reynolds' "Trio for Trumpet (Kevin Cobb), Horn (Michael Thornton) and Trombone (John Rojak)." This "power trio" played out like a treatise on their instruments exploring sounds, textures and possibilities.

The most welcome musical surprise of the evening came courtesy of composer Osvaldo Golijov and his "Last Round for Double String Quartet and Double Bass." With his primary responsibility as conductor of the student-comprised Festival Orchestra, violinist Scott Yoo was scheduled to appear in only two faculty performances this summer, but the fallen violinists pressed him into service. He joined Hersh, violist Phillip Ying, cellist Bion Tsang and bass player Susan Cahill on the faculty side. As a highly energetic and breathtakingly beautiful tribute to 20th-century tango master Astor Piazzolla, the music's soulful sounds were welcomed by all.

Violinists Robyn Quinnett and Antonio Cevallos, violist Seido Karasaki, cellist Ray Kim and bass player Yu-Chen Yang are students at the festival. But they neither looked or sounded like anything less than their teachers.

With all the excellence that had preceded it, the performance of Mendelssohn's "D minor Piano Trio" left the music from the concert's first half in its wake. Yoo, David Ying and Nakamatsu forged a dream ensemble that produced an immortal performance.

From the get-go, this oft-performed, 175-year-old masterpiece seemed to be having its concert debut. Even though Yoo had only a short time to prepare for this performance, he made sure this was a close-knit conversation as he and Ying rung out every bit of passion possible. Nakamatsu's keyboard clarity acted as musical arbiter to the strings.

The dramatic first movement was countered by the seamless poetry of the second. The scherzo blended intense rhythmic drive with the composer's signature fairyesque aura. For the finale, the trio added a sense of spontaneous creativity that both honored the structure of the music and brought the house down.


COLORADO COLLEGE SUMMER MUSIC FESTIVAL
What: Faculty Artist concerts, Festival Orchestra concerts, Music at Midday and community concerts
When: Through June 29
Where: Packard Hall, 5 W. Cache La Poudre St., and the Cornerstone Arts Center, 825 N. Cascade Ave., Colorado College
Tickets: $30 faculty concerts, $25 orchestra concerts, free student chamber music and community concerts; 520-7469; ticketswest.com; Worner Center, 902 N. Cascade Ave.
Next: Faculty artists perform contemporary chamber music including music by Carter, Daugherty and Penderecki, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

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