MANCHESTER — Vermont’s summer music season opened Saturday — in person and indoors — with a beautiful bouquet of musical colors. Actually, the closing work of Taconic Music’s opening concert of its fifth season at Burr and Burton Academy’s Riley Center for the Arts was more of a drenching of beautiful sounds.
Taconic Music actually presented four in person concerts indoors last summer at the Riley Center — with the audience masked and socially distanced — the only festival in the state to do so. (Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival presented a single indoor concert at Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall.) Just before Saturday’s concert, Taconic announced that it would not require masks of those fully vaccinated.
Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi’s 1938 Sextet in C Major, Op. 37 is a neo-Romantic mix of Brahmsian richness, early 20th century harmonic language and brilliant bombast. Its unusual instrumentation, with clarinet and French horn instead of a second violin, resulted in unique ebullient and brilliant sounds. And there was plenty of Romantic drama and rhapsody — and a bit of delightful humor.
Taconic’s performance was simply a joy. Violinist Joana Genova and violist Ariel Rudiakov — co-founders and artistic directors of Taconic Music — were joined by cellist Thomas Landschoot, clarinetist Todd Palmer, French hornist Kyle Hoyt, and Drew Peterson in the overtly virtuosic piano part. In this finely crafted piece, the musicians clearly enjoyed every second — and so did the audience.
There couldn’t be a larger contrast from the Dohnányi than Lili Boulanger’s 1914 Trois morceaux pour piano (Three Pieces for Piano). That this is a masterpiece, and not a minor one despite its less than 6-minute length, was attested to by Petersen’s sensitive and irresistible performance. Boulanger, who only lived to 24, was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome, the greatest composition prize in the world at the time.
Boulanger’s three very French solo gems find themselves somewhere between Claude Debussy and Olivier Messiaen. Spare rather than austere, these works are sensual poetry, yet contain not one extraneous note. Petersen understood this, and made no effort to “interpret” Boulanger’s artistry. The result was exquisite.
The entire Taconic Music family, faculty and students, combined to perform Swedish composer Dag Wirén’s 1937 Serenade for Strings, Op. 11. This is a four-movement charmer that would easily imagine as a score to a European film.
At first, the Serenade seemed witty but superficial as Rudiakov conduced the 11 string players, but its attractiveness proved deeper. The playing was fine, and it was a great start to an excellent concert.
Taconic Music will be presenting three more Saturday faculty concerts, two “NextGen” performances, and public master classes. This opening concert bodes well for the first summer concert season coming out of the COVID-9 pandemic. Yay!
@timesargus.com / jim.lowe