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Review: High standards for the last 2023 Mimir Chamber Music Festival concert

Gradually adding collaborators, the Horszowski Trio played Bolcom, Saint-Saëns and Brahms at the Fort Worth festival.

FORT WORTH — The two Mimir Chamber Music Festival concerts I heard this summer were particularly fine. As always, this July festival at Texas Christian University offered enterprising mixes of music, including works unlikely to be heard otherwise around here. But the performances, in past years always professional if not always transcending their ad-hoc assemblages of musicians, this time were consistently polished and sophisticated.

Drawn from major orchestras, chamber ensembles and conservatory faculties, the performers double as coaches for up-and-coming young chamber ensembles — who also play concerts. This year’s faculty performers included a piano trio that’s been playing together since 2011.

The Horszowski Trio is named for the celebrated pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, teacher of the trio’s pianist, Rieko Aizawa. Completed by violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Ole Akahoshi, the threesome performed in all three works on this year’s last Mimir concert, Friday night at TCU’s PepsiCo Recital Hall.

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After the opening Introduzione e Rondo: Haydn Go Seek by American composer William Bolcom, musicians were added for each of the two following works. Violist Jessica Thompson joined for a B-flat major Piano Quartet by Saint-Saëns — where else would you hear that? — and Mimir executive director Curt Thompson joined as second violinist for the Brahms Piano Quintet.

Bolcom was one of an international array of composers commissioned by the Haydn Trio Eisenstadt, in Austria, to mark the 2009 bicentenary of Joseph Haydn’s death. Bolcom’s tribute begins seriously, even portentously, in Haydnesque musical language. But as it proceeds, lines slip out of traditional harmonic connections, the subtle mischief honoring a forebear known for musical wit. The performance was tightly coordinated, but with just the right “give” here and there.


The Saint-Saëns validates the French composer’s reputation for craft and charm, if not the last word in originality. Unusually, none of the four movements is actually slow, although the finale pauses for a more reflective passage before contrapuntal activity drives toward a rousing coda. Again, the playing was thoroughly authoritative, Jessica Thompson’s viola lending tones of particularly silken finesse.

The Brahms was long a staple of the chamber music round sadly dropped last year from the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. The Mimir musicians gave it an impassioned account, replete with rhythmic subtleties; introspections were lovingly caressed. The second movement opened with apt buoyancy, and the reflective episode interrupting the finale’s exuberance was breathtaking.

Aizawa was occasionally a bit too loud in the balance, but overall her playing was a marvel of nuance, notably her way of tapering off phrases and motifs. String playing remained securely under control, with none of the raw forcing too often heard from chamber ensembles these days.


But Mills’ vibrato sometimes struck me as overly intense in climactic passages, and it sometimes interrupted what could have been more legato lines. Nineteenth-century treatises and early 20th-century recordings prove that string players in Brahms’ day used only subtle vibrato on occasional long notes.

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