Chamber Music at 6,329 Feet

United StatesUnited States  Debussy, Foss, R. Strauss, Beethoven: Angela Jones Reus (flute), Adelle Eslinger (piano), Heidi Melton (soprano), Donald Runnicles (piano), Ralph Matson (violin), Igor Gefter (cello). Grand Teton Music Festival, Walk Festival Hall, Teton Village, Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 5.7.2012 (LV)

Debussy: Syrinx, for flute solo
Lukas Foss: American Pieces, for flute and piano
Richard Strauss: Die Georgine and other songs
Beethoven: Piano Trio in G major, Op. 1 No. 2

The flute turns out be a very seductive instrument when heard alone at intimate Walk Festival Hall, a heady venue at 6,329 feet. This was made clear when, to open a concert of chamber music chosen by the musicians, Angela Jones Reus beguilingly explored the nuances of timbre and style in Debussy’s Syrinx with her honey-colored tone. Joined by Adelle Eslinger, Reus then made an engaging case for Lukas Foss’s American Pieces, ten minutes of earnest populism.

Next up was soprano Heidi Melton (heading for Karlsruhe to do the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier after the Jackson Hole weekend), who contributed an enchanting Richard Strauss set, combining melting beauty with a warm lyrical touch, accompanied by her own brief synopses of the poems. At the piano was Donald Runnicles (also the festival’s music director), and each tone seemed connected to a core of softly percussive illumination—the essence of a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime collaboration. Melton and Runnicles then proceeded to turn the tables mischievously with a highly entertaining set of American tunes.

After the break, Runnicles, Ralph Matson (Utah Symphony concertmaster) and Igor Gefter (cellist with the Toronto Symphony) performed one of the Beethoven’s most rarely-heard treasures, the Piano Trio in G major, Op. 1 No. 2, in which the young Beethoven stretches music and the instrumental technique of the time. The trio generously allowed themselves to fall under the composer’s naive attempts at formality, such as the introduction to the first movement, and to delight in the many displays of instrumental virtuosity. They crooned charmingly in the slow movement, and in Beethoven’s incredibly daring, out-of-control finale, they hung on until the end, at which point the audience erupted into delighted applause—which was, after all, Beethoven’s intent.

Laurence Vittes