Arts & Culture

Review: Mimir Chamber Music Festival’s closing concert

The 2015 Mimir Chamber Music Festival came to a close in TCU’s PepsiCo Hall on Friday evening with a program that was typical of this season, which has been noticeably more adventurous than past years.

Artistic Director Curt Thompson, after some prodding, made an admirable (and successful) effort to include some music of our time in every concert. He chose more accessible music by composers who were known for their atonal thickets. Today’s welcome return to tonality has revived interest in such works, just as it has freed composers from modernist regulation to write what is in their hearts. (Huzzah!)

Mimir concert No. 5 opened with a standard masterpiece, the last string quartet written by the man who invented them: Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in F major, Op. 77, No. 2. Violinists Jun Iwasaki and Curt Thompson, violist Misha Galaganov and cellist Brant Taylor gave it a charming performance, even if they did exceed classical-era dynamics. Some more mischievousness in Haydn’s last movement would have been more appropriate than their serious approach.

A fascinating work by a living American composer (and a woman) followed. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s Piano Quintet was written for piano and string quartet but with a bass replacing the expected cello.

Thus, this piece required the addition of pianist John Novacek and Nicolas Tsolainos, the distinguished principal bass of the Dallas Symphony. Tsolainos’ early experience in jazz served him well in Zwilich’s blues-influenced piece. She didn’t quite capture the down-and-out nature, but the Mimir players made a good case for it. A lickety-split ragtime encore by Novacek brought the house down.

The Mimir season ended with a work by the Hungarian transplant to Florida, Ernst von Dohnányi.

His Piano Quintet in C minor was written in 1895, when he was only 18, but the bulk of his work was written in the 20th century. Under Thompson’s leadership, this piece, usually played with too much schmaltz, got a fresh and de-sentimentalized interpretation that uncovered its many glories. With one foot in the 19th century and another in the 20th, this was the perfect piece to end the season.