For more than 30 years, chamber music had enjoyed a strong and secure place in the summer arts schedule in Delaware. Aficionados of the art form could count on exciting and intelligent performances each June courtesy of the Delaware Chamber Music Festival.
That came to an ended with the demise of the festival two years ago.
The good news: Thoughtful and well-played chamber music has once again found a place on the local arts scene as Serafin Summer Music debuted at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington on Thursday, June 20.
“Bohemian Gems” was the umbrella title for the music of Dvorak and Smetana. What’s refreshing about this festival is the diversity of its repertoire with the varied lineup of instrumental combinations, including vocal music.
Case in point: Dvorak’s Terzetto in C major for two violins and viola, Op. 74. Each of the three movements explored a myriad of musical ideas and sentiments, with an emphasis on the cheerful. The playing was excellent, especially in the unison sections, which were polished to a high gloss. The performers were Kate Ransom and Hal Grossman, violins and Luke Fleming, viola.
Grossman and pianist Amy Dorfman were well-matched for a performance of the composer’s Sonatina in G major for Violin and Piano, Op. 100. Its use of Native- and African-American themes place it squarely in the company of the more familiar “American Quartet.”
The second half of the program featured compositions by the father of Czech nationalist music, Bedrich Smetana. Ransom and Dorfman collaborated on two gentle pieces for violin and piano, From My Homeland. Written in 1880, the title suggests that these lyrical works form a sort of chamber counterpart to the composer’s great cycle of symphonic poems, Ma Vlast, but in fact reflect the peace that the composer, wracked by physical and mental illness, found in the countryside of central Bohemia.
Ransom and Dorfman offered a charming, unassuming and well-played interpretation of this work by a major composer that has not been played to death.
The inaugural concert closed with the composer’s E minor String Quarter, No. 1 (“From My Life”). A happy piece this is not. True, the early movements do offer themes that reflect the composer’s early life, his youth, the joy he found in dancing and his first love, but the tragedy of his inevitable deafness increasingly added somber tones to the score, petering out on just a single chilling note.
Ransom, Grossman and Fleming were joined by cellist Charae Krueger and this ad hoc quartet performed with all the qualities of a veteran ensemble. Both in technique and artistic temperament, these musicians, drew inspiration from one another, coalescing into an instrumental choir, with the individual voices clearly heard, yet singing as one.