Concert promises a rich summer for 2017



Rutland Herald | January 03, 2017

By Jim Lowe

MANCHESTER — In a New Year’s Eve showcase, Manchester Music Festival offered a glimpse of what the now 43-year-old summer chamber music festival will be under its new artistic management — and it was richly promising.

Chicago pianist Adam Neiman has taken over the reins from violist Ariel Rudiakov, the festival’s artistic director of 16 years, and it promises a change of flavor — still, not a radical one, as Neiman has been performing at the festival for the last decade.

Perhaps the highlight of the program, one of several, was the performance of lieder, or “art song.” World-traveling singer Randall Scarlata, also a veteran of Vermont’s New England Bach Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, is a sensitive but powerful baritone without the dark gravity of a bass.

Scarlata performed well-known favorites (or at least well-known to vocal music lovers). He proved particularly delightful in two French songs, “L’invitation au voyage” by Henri Duparc and “Claire de lune” by Gabriel Faure. Not only was the French diction expert, his nuanced expressiveness delivered the songs’ deep emotions to his appreciative audience. Much the same could be said for his performance of two of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Songs of Travel” and “Spring Waters” by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Scarlata was partnered by Neiman, who proved equally expressive, playing with power, yet with a clarity and sensitivity that never covered the singer. It was truly a duo performance by two masters. Neiman employed these same qualities in his performance of Glinka’s “The Lark,” in Balikirev’s arrangement for solo piano. With the pianist’s deep understanding and imagination, this little gem was revealed to be an intimate masterpiece.

Joining the festivities was the Haven String Quartet, the young ensemble in residence at Music Haven, a program of music lessons for more than 80 children in the underserved neighborhoods of New Haven, Conn. Their hearts, though, are matched by their performance prowess. Violinists Yaira Matyakubova and Gregory Tompkins, violist Annalisa Boerner and cellist Philip Boulanger performed with a youthful zest, yet with real musical understanding and refinement.

The quartet’s young exuberance filled the opening Allegro of Mozart’s “Eine Klein Nachtmusik,” K. 525, with joy. Their musical depth could also be heard in movements from chamber music masterpieces by Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Anton Arensky, where they were joined by Neiman. These works also revealed the pianist’s elegant and astute virtuosity.

Another fine pianist, Neiman’s wife, Ariella Mak-Neiman, joined him in popular works for piano four-hands by Debussy and Dvorak. Mak-Neiman also proved a deeply satisfying performer in three Beethoven folk songs for baritone and piano and trio. They were delightful.

Saturday’s concert at the First Congregational Church was a cavalcade of short gems that kept the capacity audience — including children and teens — delighted for 90 minutes. It certainly whetted the appetite for the big stuff this summer.