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George Rebane: A sea change at Music in the Mountains

Other Voices
George Rebane

Earlier this month, Jo Ann and I attended an all-Beethoven concert at the Amaral Center. It was the launch concert of a new series put on by Music in the Mountains that featured the Sacramento Philharmonic and violin virtuoso Chee-Yun Kim.

Those who arrived early got to hear MIM Artistic Director Pete Nowlen detail the five concerts of the series spread over the coming twelve months.

The Amaral was set up as usual for such concerts with a large foyer/reception area containing tables and chairs, and featuring two refreshment services — one for coffee, cookies, and other delights for the more innocent palates; the other offering flagons of sterner stuff for those seeking to make their pre-concert tete-a-tetes a bit more free flowing. When the lights flashed and we all had ambled to our seats, the hall was pretty much filled with a noticeable sprinkling of younger families with children (hope springs eternal) there to enjoy an evening of world-class music right here in River City. And that, dear reader, is the real news about this season.

MIM has negotiated an agreement with the SacPhil, joined by internationally recognized soloists, to become a regular part of Nevada County’s classical music scene, and I’m told this is an exceptional arrangement for communities of our size to attract and feature music performances of such high quality. Kudos go out to MIM’s Executive Director Dr. Mieko Hatano and Artistic Director Mr. Pete Nowlen for designing the season and making it all happen.

We must remember that something becomes classical when it endures with time. For that there must be a reason.

Friday night’s performance opened with Beethoven’s 4th Symphony (B-flat minor, Op 60) written in 1806. The orchestra was conducted by Maestro (Maestra?) Michelle Merrill who did an outstanding job of bringing out the best that SacPhil can deliver, while showing the ease with which the orchestra could produce the unbelievably rich sounds of the various instruments and execute the complexities that Beethoven poured into the work often referred to as the composer’s “symphonic ideal”.

After the intermission we were treated to the evening’s highlight, Beethoven’s D-major Violin Concerto (Op 61, 1805). Frankly I have never paid that much attention to this violin concerto when delivered on some audio medium. I always thought of it as basic Beethoven and let its strains fade into inconsequential musical wallpaper as I went about my other work. Well, after a patience-demanding sans-soloist intro by the orchestra, my philistinian attitude was dashed when Ms. Kim put bow to the strings of her “Ex Strauss” Stradivarius (Cremona, 1708). Seeing that virtuoso violinist live on stage while she demonstrated things I never thought a violin could do was indeed a most enjoyable and almost startling eye/ear opener which also gave me an added appreciation of Ludwig’s genius. The most startling revelation came when Chee-Yun Kim teased out with utmost precision and tonal control the conclusion of an arpeggio that must have ended under a generous handful of pianissimos, and yet we heard every note.

After a well-deserved standing ovation and a number of curtain calls Ms. Kim played a virtuosic arrangement of the Beatles’ “Yesterday” that contained beautiful new harmonies and also sounded as if the melody line was accompanied by another violin. We were enthralled.

OK, enough gushing, now it’s time to tell you what’s ahead in this year’s MIM classical subscription series. On June 2-3, the MIM Festival Chorus performs a collection of choral works at Peace Lutheran that includes one of my very favorites, Morton Lauridsen’s “Dirat-on.”

On Oct. 13, the SacPhil returns to perform Brahms Symphony No. 1 and Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 at the Amaral Center.

Our holiday concert at the Amaral Center, on Dec. 9-10, features the MIM Orchestra and Festival Chorus delivering a festive mix of carols, classics, and more.

Then please prepare yourself for the unhacked Russian spectacular on Jan. 26, 2018 at the Amaral Center featuring Glinka’s “Ruslan and Ludmilla Overture,” Mussorsgky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition,” and, seatbelts fastened please, Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3.”

All this in addition to the six concert traditional SummerFest starting June 25 and ending with the spectacular third of July celebration of America’s birthday. Further details about the performances and how to subscribe to the entire series can be found on at http://musicinthemountains.org.

OK, that’s about all I can muster about my favorite brand of music, cool sounds that have been around for much longer than the forgettable tunes that daily pour over us by the thousands, tunes quickly replaced tomorrow by more titillations du jour. We must remember that something becomes classical when it endures with time. For that there must be a reason.

George Rebane, who lives in Nevada City, is a member of Music in the Mountains board of directors.


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