• Music Review: Chamber concert proves exotic
    By Jim Lowe
     | August 17,2013
    Photo by Deanna Baasch

    Violinist Joana Genova performs Pancho Vladigerov’s “Bulgarian Rhapsody” with Di Wu at the piano Thursday at the Manchester Music Festival faculty concert.

    MANCHESTER — The Manchester Music Festival concert Thursday at Southern Vermont Arts Center opened with a chamber music masterpiece, but it was a series of ethnic bonbons that proved spectacular.

    Manchester Music Festival is one of Vermont’s finest summer chamber music schools for young professionals, and its concerts, both faculty and student, are open to the public. This was the final faculty concert of the season; next week, the festival will present “Rising Stars of the Metropolitan Opera.”

    Perhaps most rewarding and intriguing was Bulgarian composer Pancho Vladigerov’s “Bulgarian Rhapsody” or “Vardar Rhapsody,” a fiery work based on ethnic melodies for virtuoso violin and piano.

    Violinist Joana Genova, a festival staple and a Bulgarian native, played with an infectious mix of passion and warmth, coupled with the requisite virtuosity, that made this exotic work sing. She was ably accompanied by pianist Di Wu.

    Di Wu was responsible for perhaps the most exciting performance of the concert, certainly the most refined. Claude Debussy’s “Fireworks” was delivered with an exacting clarity and smoldering passion, exactly what makes this showcase of brilliant colors so exciting.

    Serbian violinist Stefan Milenkovich, again with Di Wu, employed his able technique and sensual sound, as well as his ethnicity, in Bela Bartok’s beautiful and familiar “Romanian Dances.” Milenkovich’s performance delivered the work’s deep and beautiful exoticism with flair.

    Cellist Caroline Stinson was joined by Rocco Anthony Jerry on bayan, a Russian accordion, in “Anxiety” from Astor Piazzola’s “Five Tango Sensations.” Stinson’s plaintive but sensual cello was matched by the melancholy of Jerry’s bayan, resulting in a rich but quietly touching performance.

    Anything but quiet was “Navarra,” Pablo de Sarasate’s bonbon for two virtuoso violins with piano accompaniment. The performance by Milenkovich and Genova, with Di Wu, was not only able but rich-sounding, virtuosic and loads of fun.

    Interestingly, Antonin Dvorak’s A Major Piano Quintet, Opus 81, which opened the program, proved less inspired than the second half.

    Certainly pianist Di Wu, violinists Milenkovich and Genova, violist Ariel Rudiakov, the festival’s artistic director, and cellist Stinson proved able players, but their performance lacked the musical cohesiveness and drive to give it the requisite emotional power. Likely there was not adequate rehearsal time.

    Still, Thursday’s Manchester Music Festival faculty concert proved a joy with its ethnic passion and beauty.

    Manchester Music Festival

    Manchester Music Festival presents “Rising Stars of the Metropolitan Opera,” the final performance of its “Panoramas” summer series, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at the Southern Vermont Arts Center’s Arkell Pavilion. Featured are soprano Emalie Savoy, mezzo-soprano Sandra Piques Eddy, tenor Patrick O’Halloran, bass-baritone Clayton Mathews and pianist Caren Levine. For tickets or information, call 362-1956 or go online to www.mmfvt.org.

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