KILLINGTON — Killington Music Festival opened its 37th season of chamber music concerts Saturday with a particularly rich performance by guest pianist Simon Graichy and violinist Daniel Andai, the festival’s artistic director, at Killington Resort’s Ramshead Lodge.
The festival is actually a summer music school for some 40 high school and college-age aspiring instrumentalists who are guided by master musicians. The five Saturday faculty concerts are open to the public, as are many student recitals, including community outreach performances.
Graichy, in his third year opening the series, is a French virtuoso at the beginning of his career, providing an inspiration for the younger musicians. The first half of the program was devoted to solo piano, and Graichy opened with Robert Schumann’s recently discovered (1976) Variations on a Theme of Beethoven (from the Seventh Symphony). Though not as complex as many of Schumann’s works, it demands coloring and virtuosity, which Graichy delivered with flair.
Reflecting Schumann’s attempted suicide by throwing himself into the Rhine River was “Robert on the Bridge” by Canadian composer Chilly Gonzales (b. 1972), commissioned by Graichy. The neo-romantic work was richly rewarding as it built to a sudden climax.
Another Graichy commission, Two Etudes, by Polish composer Pawel Szymanski, were both neo-baroque but with decidedly contemporary language and unexpected rhythms. The second was something of a contemporary take on a Bach toccata.
Dessert was two of Graichy’s own transcriptions of popular classical guitar works.
This was a welcome change from Killington’s often conservative programming.
Sill, the most rewarding work on Saturday’s program was its most traditional.
Andai and Graichy joined for one of the grand masterpieces of the repertoire, César Franck’s Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano.
Both reveled in the virtuosity while plumbing its depths.
Andai played with a seemingly newfound burnished sound, not unlike a rich red wine, and an overt expressiveness, while Graichy delivered the work’s large-scale architecture with virtuosic articulation and power. Despite limited rehearsal time, their performance was a singular statement. Their performance was pure pleasure.