Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 21, 2023

REVIEW: Sevenars Music Festival, "Rorianne Schrade"

The Academy, Worthington, MA 
August 20, 2023 
by Michael J. Moran 

Never one to shrink from a challenge, founding family member and festival executive director
Rorianne Schrade closed the 2023 Sevenars season with a 150th birthday tribute to the great Russian composer-pianist Sergei Rachmaninoff. Only slightly diminished by a four-day cold, she not only tackled some of the most “demanding writing in the piano literature” but wrote her own touchingly personal program notes. 

She opened with four transcriptions by Rachmaninoff of works by other composers. In “Preludio,” based on the prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s third partita for solo violin, Schrade emphasized the “harmonic hints of Romanticism” heard in it by Rachmaninoff. In “Wohin?” (“Where?”) from Franz Schubert’s song cycle “Die Schone Mullerin” (“The Fair Maiden of the Mill”), she found a mix of “pastoral beauty and tragedy” that’s not uncommon in Rachmaninoff’s own music.
Mischievous joy pervaded Schrade’s take on his lively arrangement of the “Scherzo” from Felix Mendelssohn’s incidental music for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” as it did her raucous “Hopak” by Modeste Mussorgsky in Rachmaninoff’s boisterous setting.
After a tender reading of the gentle fifth “Musical Moment” in memory of her mother, Schrade launched without pause into Rachmaninoff’s daunting 1931 revision of his 1913 first piano sonata. Her powerful yet lucid playing let every note ring out clearly among the fistfuls of them in the opening “Allegro agitato” and the closing “Allegro molto,” while leaving plenty of space for the quiet beauty of the central “Lento” to resonate. This triumphant performance was a fitting rebuke to the teacher who advised her to leave this sonata “for the big boys.”
The program’s second half focused on “music of reverie,” in which Schrade considers Rachmaninoff “unparalleled.” Two songs – imaginative transcriptions by Hungarian pianist Zoltan Kocsis of “Vocalise” and by Rachmaninoff of “Lilacs” –ached with nostalgia. Two of his Op. 33 “Etudes-Tableaux” - #7 in E-flat Major and #3 in C minor – were cogently heroic. Two waltzes – resourceful transcriptions by Rachmaninoff of Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesleid” (“Love’s Sorrow”) and by pianist Vladimir Leyetchkiss of the waltz from Rachmaninoff’s second suite for two pianos – exuded profound yearning.
This high point of the season will be hard to top, even at the special post-season concert on September 9 at 2 pm honoring longtime Sevenars jazz clarinetist Bob Sparkman.