Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 7, 2018

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, Lynelle James

Sevenars Music Festival, Worthington, MA
August 5, 2018
by Michael J. Moran

For the second week in a row, the family member featured in concert at Sevenars was Lynelle James, last week as a member of the Piazzolla Trio, this week as piano soloist. This family-based music festival, founded by Robert and Rolande Schrade and named after the first letter of their names and those of their five children, celebrates its 50th anniversary season this summer.

Lynelle is the daughter of pianists David James and the late Robelyn Schrade-James and a granddaughter of the founders. The repertoire on her program was typically adventurous for this venue, all demanding the utmost technical facility and interpretive depth, requirements that she met with room to spare.

Lynelle James
She opened with a sparkling account of Mozart’s Sonata, K. 332, which dates from his early maturity around 1783, and which James noted in spoken comments reflects the drama of his operas and was a favorite of her mother. The “Allegro” first movement exuded classical poise, while the central “Adagio” conveyed a luminous stillness, and the closing “Allegro Assai” was a joyful romp. Concluding the concert’s first half, by contrast, was Liszt’s colorful Mephisto Waltz No. 1, which James rendered with unfailingly virtuosic flair. 

The program’s second half began with several fascinating short pieces by the concert’s least-known composer, Nikolai Roslavets, a twentieth-century Russian modernist whose music can sound, as pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, quoted by James, put it, “like Scriabin on acid” (both pianists have recorded Roslavets). Her playing of four miniatures, recently recovered from long obscurity, reveled in the composer’s quirky originality.

James closed her program with a bracing performance of Chopin’s masterful and challenging third piano sonata. She effortlessly captured the full range of its powerful emotions, from a warm opening “Allegro Maestoso,” to a mercurial “Scherzo,” a radiant “Largo,” and a thundering “Presto Ma Non Tanto” finale.

Nurtured in the bosom of a loving musical family, whose tradition of excellence is entertainingly chronicled on the walls of the Sevenars concert hall, this distinguished third-generation musician seems clearly destined for a major career.