The Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival is only in its second year under artistic director and creator, violinist Soovin Kim but already it has the feeling of stability and permanency that is generally associated with many years of actual festival time. It is no surprise that the Festival is going so well, because Kim had a dream, and he pushed that dream equally with his own personal career, so that the result is a tremendous success.
The concert last week was good evidence of the long-term success of this festival. The East Coast Chamber Orchestra, an orchestra that made it's local debut in a program that featured Kim as soloist in a Mozart violin Concerto, provided the musicians who played works by David Ludwig, Dvorak, Rossini, and Brahms.
The Ludwig work, Aigaios, was written in 2006 as a commission given him to write a short piece on the book 'The Perfect Storm'. The work depicts (according to the composer) the water simultaneously crashing through the portholes of the ship, and goes on from there to a conclusion that is very quiet and peaceful. The composition enjoyed an incredibly well-thought-out performance by a quartet of players. The same quartet of players plus a string bass gave an exacting account of the Nocturne in B Major, Op. 40, filled with ethereal sounds that echoed through the space of the Elley-Long Music Center at St. Michael's College undisturbed before the audience broke the stillness with applause. The first part of the concert ended with the performance of Rossini's String Sonata No. 1 in G Major, a frothy piece that sparkled in the hands of the players.
The String Sextet No.2 in G. Major, Op. 36 of Johannes Brahms, occupied the second half of the concert. This is a daunting work for a number of reasons, not the least of which is sudden changes of tempo and style. The sextet received an admirable performance by the young instrumentalists. There was attention to every possible detail, and at the conclusion of the sextet, the audience gave the musicians a rousing series of bows, calling them back to the stage several times.
The evening concluded with a short Meet the Musicians session on stage and a dessert reception.
The Romans had a saying: Primus inter pares or, in its literal translation, someone who is first among equals. In the midst of a bevy of extraordinarily gifted musicians, my attention was caught by violinist Ayano Ninomiya. Her rapport with the Nocturne (she played first violin) was so exquisitely tuned that she seemed to float heavenward carrying at least this enchanted listener along with her.
The other player who captured my attention was cellist Denise Djokic, a dynamo of sound who performed her duties within the sextet by a deft rendering of the music of her part.
I don't know whether the general audience for music is truly aware of the bounteous musical gifts that we had been gifted with. We were accustomed to the high standards of the Vermont Mozart Festival, but now it is joined by Green Mountain Opera Festival, the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival, and some other festivals, making Vermont in summer truly a place where the hills are alive with the sound of music fantastically well played.
Burlington resident Dan Wolfe observes and critiques the local arts scene for The Eagle. His column appears weekly.