Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 10, 2023

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, "Opening Family Concert"

The Academy, Worthington, MA 
July 9, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Stormy Berkshire weather couldn’t dampen the high spirits of the hardy New Englanders who
lent a festive air to the opening concert of this beloved summer festival’s 55th season. The program featured members of the founding Schrade-James family and showcased their eclectic musical tastes in the intimate acoustics of the Academy in Worthington, MA

Host and pianist Rorianne Schrade (after whose parents and their five children, all having first names that start with R, the festival is named) began by playing her own transcriptions for solo piano of two pieces by American master Ned Rorem, who died last year at age 99. His 1955 chorus “Sing My Soul” was elegantly serene, while the “Overture” from his 1949 two-piano “Dance Suite” was playfully invigorating.  
Rorianne’s nephew, cellist Christopher James, was then accompanied by his father, pianist David James, in an uncredited transcription of French composer Edouard Lalo’s 1877 “Cello Concerto in D minor.” Christopher’s lyrical cello was offset by David’s heroic heft in the orchestral role. Both deftly navigated the imaginatively tricky rhythms of all three movements. 

Christopher’s sister, pianist Lynelle James, next joined Rorianne in a jubilant reading of French composer Darius Milhaud’s 1937 two-piano suite “Scaramouche,” with an energetic “Vif,” a dreamy “Modere,” and a rollicking “Brasileira.”
Lynelle then played US premieres of two pieces from Danish-German composer Soren Sieg’s album “Amazing Africa,” each with the earworm quality of a pop hit: a tranquil “Kinyongo;” and a livelier “Circus Queen.” David’s masterful accounts of two preludes (#’s 5 and 12) from Russian composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff’s 1910 Opus 32 set seemed to float on air.  
For French composer Claude Debussy’s technically demanding 1915 “Sonata for Cello and Piano,” Christopher shaded his tone between mellow and gritty, with pizzicato flurries in the second of its three short movements; Lynelle was a nimble partner. The concert closed with Rorianne’s transcription for two pianos of “Alla Marcia” from Finnish master Jean Sibelius’s 1893 “Karelia Suite,” played to a turn by herself and Lynelle.
Spoken introductions offered helpful background information on the music, often including family-related anecdotes, like David’s recollection of the late patriarch Robert Schrade’s legendary pianism. 

Remaining Sevenars concerts, the next two presenting Springfield Symphony Orchestra musicians, are scheduled for Sundays July 16-August 20 at 4 pm.