Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 25, 2023

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, "MOSSO Horn Trio"

The Academy, Worthington, MA 
July 23, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Compared with piano trios (for violin, cello, and piano), horn trios (for French horn, violin, and piano) are far less common in the classical music repertoire. So the third concert in Sevenars’ 2023 season was a rare treat for horn lovers, with no fewer than four horn trios on the program. 

The performers were: Beth Welty, assistant principal second violinist of the Springfield
Symphony Orchestra; Sarah Sutherland, a horn player in the SSO; and Boston-based pianist Elizabeth Skavish. Welty and Sutherland are also members of the nonprofit MOSSO (Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra), which collaborates with other area musicians. 

The program opened with an elegant reading of French composer-hornist Frederic Duvernoy’s 1820 first horn trio, with a graceful “Adagio-Cantabile” and a lively “Allegretto.” A buoyant account followed of Norwegian composer-percussionist Trygve Madsen’s light-hearted 2004 trio, with a sprightly “Allegro moderato,” a soft, jazzy “Andante con moto,” and a sparkling “Allegretto.” 

Next up was the world premiere of MOSSO’s first commission, a colorful “Triptych” by Los Angeles-based film composer-arranger (and Welty’s nephew) Max Mueller. The trio’s obvious relish of the piece’s melodic charm and catchy rhythms was contagious, making Welty’s promise of more Mueller music on an SSO program next April an enticing one for the delighted audience. 

After an intermission with trademark Sevenars free homemade refreshments came a powerful rendition of what Welty called the “granddaddy” of the horn trio genre, and by far its best-known example, the 1865 horn trio by Johannes Brahms. Welty’s warm, lyrical violin, Sutherland’s lush, clarion horn, and Skavish’s versatile pianism were on full display in all four movements. 

The opening “Andante” was almost reverential, suggesting Brahms’ childhood affection for the natural horn; the “Scherzo (Allegro)” was challengingly virtuosic; the “Adagio mesto” was heartfelt, perhaps reflecting Brahms’ grief at his mother’s recent death; and the closing “Allegro con brio” was an exuberant romp.   
Spoken introductions offered helpful background on the music and a sense of the musicians’ distinctive personalities, including Sutherland’s enlightening comments about the work involved in maintaining a valve horn (the natural horn's modern successor), even while performing. 

Remaining Sevenars concerts, including the return of Ukrainian-born pianist Liana Paniyeva on July 30, continue on Sundays at 4 pm through August 20.