Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 13, 2017

Schrade and James Family Concert

Sevenars Music Festival, The Academy, Worthington, MA
July 9-August 13, 2017
by Michael J. Moran

Among local summer music festivals, Tanglewood may have the bigger name, but the music making at Sevenars is just as distinguished, the venue is a lot more intimate, and the repertoire on any one program is likely to be a good deal more eclectic. Such was certainly the case at the opening concert of the 49th season of this beloved family-based festival, founded by Robert and Rolande Schrade and named after the first letter of their names and those of their five children.

The featured performers were pianists Rorianne Schrade, her brother Randolph Schrade, their brother-in-law David James, his daughter Lynelle James, and his son, cellist Christopher James. As Rorianne quipped before the last piece, the concert could have been titled “From Summerland to Summertime,” as it opened with a tender performance by herself and David on two pianos of William Grant Still’s brief and lovely meditation “Summerland,” and closed with a rip-roaring account by herself and Lynelle of Percy Grainger’s 20-minute knuckle-buster, “Fantasy on George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess.” 

The tempo picked up after “Summerland” with a virtuosic rendition by David and Christopher of Paganini’s typically challenging “Variations on a Theme from Moses in Egypt,” a rarely heard opera by Rossini. Their Tchaikovsky “Pezzo Capriccioso” was an engaging mix of liveliness and poignancy. Randolph brought clarity and emotional depth to two Brahms pieces, a “Capriccio” and an “Intermezzo.” He and Christopher played the familiar “Meditation” from Massenet’s opera “Thais” radiantly. After a sunny account by Christopher and Rorianne of Cassado’s charming “Requiebros” (“Compliments”), the first half of the concert closed with Lynelle’s powerhouse rendition of Liszt’s “Mephisto Waltz No. 1.” 

In total contrast, Christopher opened the second half with a stately performance of the “Prelude” from Bach’s sixth cello suite. And David invested the theme and variations in Schubert’s B-flat Major Impromptu with drama and flair.

Sevenars intermissions offer free home-baked treats, and the musicians line up after the concert to greet, thank, and chat with audience members. Area classical fans are well-advised to include Sevenars, along with Tanglewood, on their summer “to do” list.