Last weekend, two of Vermont’s most important chamber music festivals ended their seasons with programs that couldn’t have been more different. Yet the two have the important things — particularly values — in common. Randolph’s Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival closed its 26th season Aug. 25 at Chandler Music Hall with a very traditional program of Beethoven, Dvorak and stretching it a bit with Gideon Klein (1919-1945). But its brilliant and rich performance of Dvorak’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87, is the reason most people go to chamber music concerts. Conversely, Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival celebrated its 10th year with a co-premiere (a co-commission with three other festivals) of a brilliant work by resident composer David Ludwig at the Elley-Long Center in Colchester. “Paganiniana,” named for the work of the same name by legendary violinist Nathan Milstein, is a dramatic concerto for solo violin and chamber ensemble (piano, flute, clarinet, violin, cello and percussion). The roughly 18-minute work is based on a survey of Niccolò Paganini’s (1782-1840) ferociously virtuosic 24 Caprices, Op. 1 for solo violin, which aptly describes the solo part in Ludwig’s mini-concerto. Festival founder and co-artistic director Soovin Kim was the able soloist, delivering the Paganini paraphrases and “modernizations” with panache. Punctuating was the klezmer-flavored ensemble that added the varying and sometimes jazz-flavored theatrical element, contrasting Kim’s turns of virtuosity and more ethereal solos. Although some of the solo parts seemed a bit long, the concerto proved a crowd pleaser — with real substance. Randolph’s Dvorak performance had its own crowd-pleasing drama. The performance was flavored by the extraordinary violinist Arturo Delmoni, concertmaster of the New York City Ballet. The venerable violinist played with a now seldom-heard warmth and overt expressiveness, showing the decades of experience that gave the work its irresistible joy of music making. (Vermont’s Jaime Laredo represents a similar style, heard last year leading a Brahms sextet at the Colchester festival.) Delmoni was joined by fellow NYC Ballet musicians, violist Katarzyna Breila-Weiss and cellist Peter Sanders, festival founder and director, and New York pianist Adrienne Kim. The performance was expert and rewarding, particularly the heart-wrenching cello solos in the Lento, played by Sanders in memory of his father, a Columbia University music professor who died earlier this year at 99. The same performance qualities applied to the remainder of the program, Beethoven’s “Kakadu” Variations, Op. 121A for piano trio and Klein’s spicy 1944 String Trio. The Lake Champlain concert opened with the original “Paganinia Variations,” a fantasy-medley in which Milstein makes Paganini Caprices and Concerto No. 1 even more difficult. Violinist Bella Hristova, Ludwig’s wife, performed with a beautiful virtuosity, refined with finesse, yet exciting. Paganini remained the theme as pianists Gloria Chien, festival co-artistic director with her husband Kim, and renowned Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin performed with flair Witold Lutoslawski’s 1941 Variations on a Theme by Paganini (the ubiquitous Caprice No. 24). They both also joined in the festival’s substantial finale, a spirited, colorful and virtuosic performance of the two-piano version of Igor Stravinsky’s 1913 “Rite of Spring.” Other than programming, the other big difference is size and scope. Central Vermont serves a small community, tiny Randolph and environs, yet it offers education opportunities, open rehearsals, work with and for kids. It has become a rite of summer for the Randolph area. Set in Vermont’s most populous county, Lake Champlain draws on Burlington for its often sold out performances and cadre of supporters. The festival offers pass holders a weeklong immersion in its music with open rehearsals, master classes, discussions and much, much more. It is also the only festival I have attended in which most of the audience shows up for the pre-concert lecture. Amazing! Both the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival and Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival have become integral parts of the Vermont music experience. Aren’t we lucky?   Jim Lowe is music critic and arts editor of The Times Argus and Rutland Herald, and can be reached at jim.lowe@rutlandherald.com or jim.lowe@timesargus.com.   Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival For information about the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival, go online to http://centralvtchambermusicfest.org.   Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival For information about the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, go online to www.lccmf.org.

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