Review: RMSC faculty delivers superb show

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The Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory Faculty Chamber Music Recital on Wednesday night was the last for this - the 10th - season, although there was a student recital and the Summer Soiree Scholarship Fundraiser at the Cottonwood Grill on Thursday night, the traditional end of camp finale today and the last student recital Saturday.

All concerts are excellent, but the faculty concerts are of the very highest caliber.

A few years ago, the faculty concerts began to feature many compositions played in their entirety. Now, this practice is common.

Wednesday's program began with violinist Jonathan Swartz playing solo, from memory, Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003, in four movements by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). The first movement, identified as "Grave," is lovely and simple. Complexity builds through the successive movements. Taken as a whole, it is a wonderfully rich composition, a great accomplishment by the musician and a great gift to the audience.

The second piece was by contemporary composer John Harbison. Violinist Carolyn Huebl explained the title, "November 19, 1828," was the death date, at age 31, of Franz Schubert. Harbison based his work on an interesting bit of history he uncovered, which was that only a few weeks before his death, Schubert went to a composer named Sechter seeking help in the composing of fugues. Sechter assigned Schubert an exercise, which was to compose a fugue based on the letters of his own last name.

Harbison took the liberty of finishing Schubert's task, which is the last movement of this work. In the first, "Introduction," we hear Schubert crossing into the next world. In the next, "Suite," Schubert finds himself in the hall of mirrors. In the third, "Rondo," Schubert is recalling a rondo fragment from 1816.

Huebl was joined in performing this fascinating piece by Linda Kline Lamar, viola, David Bjella, cello, and Daniel Velicer, piano.

Then, we heard, surprisingly, a jazz piece by Chuck Mangione, "El Gato Triste." Catherine Lehr Ramos, cello, explained that while a student at Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., Mangione almost had to cancel an engagement because of a professional musicians' strike, but she and other students rushed into the breach and the show went on.

In gratitude, Mangione composed this piece especially for her. When she spoke to Mangione recently in the interest of playing the piece again, he declined royalties but set two conditions: that his name be spelled correctly, and that the musicians have a good time. Ramos was joined by James Giles on double bass and Russell Schmidt, a jazz pianist of exceptional virtuosity. It was great fun.

The final piece - "Navarra," Op. 33 by Pablo Sarasate - was played by Carolyn Huebl, violin, Manuel Ramos, also violin, and Daniel Velicer, piano. The violins were in opposition at times, in concert at others, following a theme established by the piano. This could well be the liveliest music I've ever heard.

The attendance by the public has increased to such an extent it's fair to say the conservatory has become an integral part of our community. Music of this caliber is one of the most glorious accomplishments, of not just Western Civilization, but of humankind. It provides us an experience of the sublime and is a bastion against banality.

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