Arts & Culture

Mimir Festival remains fresh after two decades

Stephen Rose, Rieko Aizawa and Brant Taylor, from left, and Jesse Mills (in background) were some of the performers on the opening night of the Mimir festival.
Stephen Rose, Rieko Aizawa and Brant Taylor, from left, and Jesse Mills (in background) were some of the performers on the opening night of the Mimir festival.

Summer in Fort Worth means hot weather and cool chamber music.

Now in its 20th season, the Mimir Chamber Music Festival brings internationally renowned artists to PepsiCo Recital Hall for a series of concerts and educational programs. Covering a span of 165 years, Thursday evening’s opener brought us superb performances of music.

The diverse program began with a work by Joseph Haydn (1732-1809), who is credited with the invention of the string quartet. So, in tribute, why not start with “Papa” Haydn’s String Quartet in C major, Op. 20, No. 2, for two violins, viola and cello?

Joaquin Turina’s 1931 Quartet in A minor, Op. 67, is written for three string players and a piano. His music is rarely heard these days, so this was a treat. The final work on this celebratory concert was the much beloved Trio in B Major, Op. 8 by Johannes Brahms for piano, violin and cello.

Haydn’s later quartets marked a significant advance in the form. Historically, the first violin was the star and the other three parts were cast in supporting roles. Not so in his Opus 20 quartets. The four players, violinists Jesse Mills and Curt Thompson (who is also artistic director), Joan DerHovsepian (Houston Symphony’s associate principal violist) and cellist Brant Taylor (from the Chicago Symphony) reveled in this newly found independence.

The complex fugue in the last movement, with four different themes entwined, was a marvel of clarity. (Mills had a few moments of questionable intonation at the beginning; probably due to getting used to the hall.)

Because of his studies with Vincent D’Indy in Paris, Turina’s quartet sounds more like French Impressionism than the Spanish-tinged music you might expect. Mills, DerHovsepian and Taylor were jointed by Japanese pianist Rieko Aizawa for a distinctive and empathetic performance.

Together, they brought out Turina’s Spanish/French duality in this moody piece.

Brahms wrote his B Major Trio at the age of 21, but revised it when he was 56. This combination of youthful energy and mature wisdom presents a challenge for the performers.

Taylor and Aizawa, joined by Stephen Rose (principal second violin in the Cleveland Orchestra), merged this artistic divide and gave the trio a definitive performance. The balance was only slightly marred by Aizawa’s rare moments of over-exuberance.

Mimir Chamber Music Festival

  • 7:30 pm
  • PepsiCo Hall at TCU
  • Fort Worth

June 30, July 1, 5 and 7. There is one matinee concert at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Renzo Piano Pavilion at the Kimbell Art Museum.

Individual tickets are $35; packages are available. Free events include master classes. The full schedule can be found at at www.mimirfestival.org, or ror more information, call 817-984–9299, noon to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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