Strike up the symphony :World-class music resonates in Chamber Music series

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:58

VERNON-“When I arrived at the George Inn on Route 94,” said French horn player Julie Landsman, “something special happened. I saw what Vernon is all about: It’s beautiful.” Landsman is principal horn of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, one of the world’s greatest orchestras. She came to Vernon on Sunday, Oct. 16, to accompany pianist and music director Gail Niwa and violinist Peter Winograd in the second concert of 2005 in the Chamber Music at Great Gorge series. The three musicians are old friends. “Not only are Julie and Peter among my favorite people, they are both fine musicians,” said Niwa. “What’s more, all three pieces we’re going to play are great, and we really love them.” Niwa and Winograd led the program with Sonata for Violin and Keyboard in E Major, BWV 1016 by Johann Sebastian Bach. The first Allegro enthralled the audience of about 250 with its lively, dance-like character, and the delicate duet between piano and violin in the second movement brought tears to the eyes of some. “All pianists have love affairs with Chopin,” said Niwa, as she introduced Frederic Chopin’s Sonata No. 2 in B-Flat Minor, Opus 35. “The music really came alive to me when I went to Majorca and visited the monastery where Chopin stayed with George Sand [French writer Amandine-Aurore-Lucile Dupin],” she said. Chopin went to the island to attempt to recover from the tuberculosis that eventually would take his life. Niwa described the sonata, which contains the memorable signature funeral march, as one of Chopin’s many tributes to his homeland, Poland, to which the composer never was to return. “The music is filled with both angst and sweet reminiscences, and the last movement often is known as “wind over the graves,” Niwa explained. Playing with power, grace, and evenness of touch, Niwa’s rendition of the Chopin sonata kept young children listening with rapt attention. “Where else in Vernon can you go to hear such beautiful music,” said Kathy Murray, attending with daughter Kathleen and friend Renee Collins. “The girls are just beginning to take piano lessons, and they need to know that this is what it is all about - music as great as you could hear at Carnegie Hall right here in Vernon.” The final composition, Johannes Brahms’ trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano, Opus 40, featured Julie Landsman, who had played Verdi’s Falstaff at the Met just the evening before. Landsman’s sweet, true tone evoked hunting horns that had inspired Brahms as he was walking through the Black Forest sorrowing for his recently dead mother. The moody piece ends with a rollicking hunting theme that brought the audience to its feet and evoked cries of “brava” and “bravo.” Niwa, a Vernon resident, founded Chamber Music at Great Gorge six years ago. She also leads an outreach program that brings music to school children throughout the county. In 1991, she was the first female gold-medal winner of the coveted Gina Bachauer Internationals Piano Competition and has played solo and with chamber groups throughout the United States and in Europe and Asia. Violinist Peter Winograd won the 1988 Naumburg International Violin Competition. He is the first violinist with the American String Quartet, and is a member of the violin faculty at the Manhattan School of Music.