Romantics rejoice with local music festival opening

Opening the first full weekend of concerts for this year’s Music in the Mountains, an abundance of Brahms and Schumann’s “Spring” symphony seemed to set a Romantic tone. That’s been changed.

The highly anticipated appearance of Alexander Kerr, new concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony, will not take place, at least this year. Kerr had been invited to perform the Brahms Double Concerto for violin and cello. According to Angie Beach, festival executive director, Kerr had to cancel because of a family medical emergency. That left a hole in the programming. Fortunately, Kerr’s colleague and Rice University professor of cello, Desmond Hoebig, will perform Haydn’s Second Cello Concerto.

Brahms fans, don’t despair. Works by the great German composer of subterranean emotions will still fill the festival tent Friday and Saturday evenings.

The Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor will be the first work performed in the chamber concert Friday night. Music Director Guillermo Figueroa will join the Clavier Trio in this super-sized four-movement work. The second half of the program will feature two works by Uruguayan composer Miguel del Aguila, again featuring Figueroa on violin.

Written for violin and piano, “Silence” will feature the composer accompanying Figueroa in a world premiere. Then del Aguila’s chamber work, “Salon Buenos Aires” will follow. Written for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, bass and piano, “Salon” bristles with beautiful chamber writing underscored with a lilting, Latin flavor. Listen to it on YouTube before the concert, and you’ll hear even more. The romantic in you won’t be disappointed.

On Saturday night, Conductor Figueroa will lead the festival orchestra in Carl Maria von Weber’s Overture to “Oberon.” Then he will solo in a new apparently combined work called “Insula Tropical” by Puerto Rican composer Ernesto Cordero.

It’s a bit confusing because two years ago, Naxos brought out a recording of Cordero’s Caribbean Concertos. On it, you’ll hear the 1998 violin concerto “Concertino Tropical,” a three-movement work with sections dedicated to or inspired by natural elements. The more recent “Insula” dates from 2009, and Cordero’s “Concierto Festivo” from 2003 was written for guitar and orchestra.

In each, Cordero’s tantalizing mix of classical and Caribbean musical styles is apparent. The CD was nominated for Best Classical Album in the 13th Latin Grammy Awards.

Festival programming confusion aside, it looks as if the two violin concertos have been merged into a hybrid. On Saturday night, you’ll hear the first and final movements of “Tropical” with the middle sections from “Insula.”

Saturday’s concert will conclude with the big, intensely expressive Brahms Symphony No. 1 in C minor. Romantics rejoice.

Sunday night, Figueroa will conduct the Festival Orchestra in a lavish program now contrasting high Romanticism with the crystal clarity of Classicism – the Haydn cello concerto. Soloist Hoebig is professor of cello at Rice University and has been a principal of the Cleveland, Houston and Cincinnati symphonies. How lucky the festival is to have an able substitute for the original Brahms double concerto. Judith Reynolds is a Durango writer, artist and critic.

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