Yesterday afternoon’s Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival concert took place on the Outdoor River Deck at Strawhouse Resorts in Big Flat, providing a spectacular view of the Trinity River. The same two works were performed in their entirety as had been offered in Weaverville on the previous evening, the string quartets of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (K. 387 in G major) and Antonín Dvořák (Opus 96, in F major, the “American”). Since there was no piano at this venue, the program began with three movements from Ernő Dohnányi’s C major serenade, Opus 10, for string trio.
Pianist Ian Scarfe again served as host providing introductory remarks, and the string performers were the same as those who had performed in Weaverville. Cellist Charles Akert and violist Gareth Zehngut played in all three works, as did Philip Brezina, who performed the violin part in the Dohnányi, first violin in the Mozart, and second violin in the Dvořák. Ellen McGehee performed second violin in the Mozart, and Stephanie Bibbo performed first violin in the Dvořák. A system of tents was set up to provide both shade and a moderately effective acoustic shell; but, as is often the case outdoors, the critical factor was wind. The performers had a generous supply of clothespins; and those not performing were on hand to assist in providing stability of the sheet music for their colleagues.
The Dohnányi was an excellent introduction piece. The title is clearly a nod to the “diversion” music that Mozart often had to provide for social occasions. In Mozart’s time the patron usually wanted background music, but Mozart’s music was never content to stay in the background. Dohnányi’s music has the spirit of diversion; but it is for the pleasure of the performers and listeners, rather than that of some idle royal patron. The three movements selected for this occasion were the opening (and rather eccentric) march, an affable ternary-form romanza, and a finale in rondo form, which keeps dropping hints about the opening march before arriving at a full-out recapitulation of its theme. (This was the same cyclic approach found in last night’s final movement of Robert Schumann’s Opus 44 piano quintet in E-flat major.) The spirits run as high as they did in Mozart’s efforts; and these performers did not short-change them.
If Mozart and Dvořák had to contend with the challenges of an outdoor performance, they also benefitted from last night’s performances. The performers seemed more comfortable with each other and with the setting. As a result they also seemed to take a few more chances with more energetic tempo selections. This lent an extra kick to the execution, which was clearly reflected by the enthusiasm of the audience. The result was that the Festival mission to expand an audience base for classical music in general and chamber music in particular fulfilled itself admirably over the course of two days in two decidedly different venues. This was a delightful project to emerge from products of the San Francisco Conservatory of music, and we should all hope that they can maintain this mission for future events.