L-R: Guang Wang, Elizabeth Pridgen, Aloysia Friedmann, Helen Hwaya Kim, Marci Gurnow, and Brice Andrus. (courtesy of HCCMF)

Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival serves up appealing works from the classical canon

CONCERT REVIEW:
Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival
July 9, 2023
Lewis Hall, Village Green Commons
Cashiers, NC
Brice Andrus, horn; Marci Gurnow, clarinet; Elizabeth Pridgen, piano; Helen Hwaya Kim, violin; Aloysia Friedmann, viola; Guang Wang, cello.
BEETHOVEN: Horn Sonata in F major, Op. 17
BRAHMS: Clarinet Sonata in F Minor. Op. 120, No. 1
Ernő DOHNÁNYI: Sextet in C major, Op. 37
July 10, 2023
Highlands Performing Arts Center
Highlands, NC
Gryphon Trio (Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin; Roman Borys, cello; Jamie Parker, piano); Kate Ransom, violin; Aloysia Friedmann, viola.
MOZART: Piano Trio No. 5 in C major, K. 548
SCHUMANN: Piano Quartet in E♭ major, Op. 47
BRAHMS: Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34

Mark Gresham | 12 JUL 2023

For the first time in a long while, EarRelevant is on a road trip. Traveling to the mountains of western North Carolina, I attended two fine concerts this weekend at the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival on Sunday, July 9, and Monday, July 10.

Sunday’s concert at Lewis Hall, Village Green Commons, in Cashiers opened with Beethoven’s Horn Sonata in F major, Op. 17, played by hornist Brice Andrus and pianist Elizabeth Pridgen. Then clarinetist Marci Gurnow joined Pridgen for Johannes Brahms’ Clarinetfor a performance Sonata in F Minor. Op. 120, No. 1

In both cases, the winds held an undeniable dynamic advantage over the petite grand piano, a distinction further accentuated by the acoustics of Lewis Hall. Nevertheless, each performer skillfully executed their part, and good musical dialogue prevailed in these appealing performances.


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The second half of Sunday’s program was for mixed ensemble, the Sextet in C Major, Op. 37 by Ernő Dohnányi, for violin, viola, cello, clarinet, horn, and piano, written in 1935. Violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, violist Aloysia Friedmann, and cellist Guang Wang, took the stage with Pridgen, Andrus, and Gurnow for this work.

In his typically late-Romantic fashion, Dohnányi strives for organic unity, movement to movement, through the cyclic use of a simple gesture – two descending notes, introduced as a horn call. Dohnányi varies their rhythm and the interval, but it is the motivating motif behind the entire sextet.

Despite Dohnányi’s typically conservative musical temperament, the final giocoso movement makes a nod to European jazz of the day, the dance-tune opening in the piano part plays against syncopated in pizzicato chords by the string trio. It elaborates from there. In the end, material from the opening movement returns (the horn call), a cyclic touch reaffirming the composer’s late Romantic inclinations.

[PERFORMANCE GRAF]

L-R: Jamie Parker, Aloysia Friedmann, Annalee Patipatanakoon, Kate Ransom, and Roman Borys. (courtesy of HCCMF)

L-R: Jamie Parker, Aloysia Friedmann, Annalee Patipatanakoon, Kate Ransom, and Roman Borys. (courtesy of HCCMF)

Monday’s concert occurred in Highlands at the Martin-Lipscomb Performing Arts Center, where a different, larger piano was in place.

The featured ensemble of the evening was the Gryphon Trio from Canada — violinist Annalee Patipatanakoon, cellist Roman Borys, and pianist Jamie Parker. With over a quarter century history, the Gryphon Trio’s repertoire ranges from European classicism to modern-day multi-media, and they have commissioned more than 85 new works. However, in this concert they drew all repertoire from the traditional European canon, opening by themselves with Haydn’s Piano Trio in C Major, Hob. XV:27.

Robert Schumann’s Piano Quartet in E♭ Major Op. 47, they added a musical friend to the ensemble: violist Aloysia Friedmann, who was also part of Sunday’s concert. Then they expanded the ensemble to five with violinist Kate Ransom for the final work, Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F minor, Op. 34.

The Gryphon Trio showed a distinct personality in its excellent playing, with attention to emotional elements of phrasing, and a certain kind of punctuated articulation that was not overdone, but added some liveliness, first made clear in their approach to Haydn, where it feels naturally at home, but was not lost in the two romantic works that followed. As with Sunday’s concert, an enjoyable evening.

After traveling the next several day to other parts of western North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky, before heading back to Atlanta, I will return this coming Sunday and Monday (July 16 & 17) for another pair of concerts in the Highlands-Cashers Chamber Music Festival, which continues through August 9.

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About the author:
Mark Gresham is publisher and principal writer of EarRelevant. He began writing as a music journalist over 30 years ago, but has been a composer of music much longer than that. He was the winner of an ASCAP/Deems Taylor Award for music journalism in 2003.

Read more by Mark Gresham.
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