Dan’s Diary: A Youthquake at Music Mountain
On Sunday afternoon, two teenage girls with apples-and-cream complexions who looked like they were dressed for their high school prom, opened the 80th season at the Music Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Falls Village. Madalyn Parnas, an 18-year-old violinist, and her sister Cicely, a 16-year-old cellist, who are known as Duo Parnas, performed with the legendary pianist Peter Serkin, who was a child prodigy himself and made his professional debut when he was 12 in 1959. The intimacy and incomparable acoustics of Music Mountain’s Gordon Hall (a tongue-and-groove panelled room with screened doors that feels like it could be the rec hall at well-maintained summer camp in Maine) allowed you to not only hear the girls’ extraordinary musicianship but also experience the joy they feel in performing. They smiled a lot as they worked through Frank Bridge’s Three Miniatures for Piano Trio #4 - 6, Shubert’s Piano Trio in B Flat Major, Opus 99, and Brahms’s PIano Trio in B Major, Opus 8. Cicely even flipped back her hair dramatically a few times while playing, a flourish that made her seem like a classical music-world rock star.
Not surprisingly, most of the audience looked like they could be the girls’ grandparents—or great-grandparents. The performance by the Duo Parnas might have been an opportunity to lure a new audience to Music Mountain—“Take Your Grandchildren to A Recital Day”? These girls radiate vitality, sensusality, and charisma. (They also have classical music in their DNA: Their grandfather cellist Leslie Parnas was a founder of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and their uncle Richard Parnas was the principal violist for the National Symphony Orchestra for 35 years. And they have more history on their side: Madalyn plays on a violin made in 1687 by Gioffredo Cappa, and Cicely plays on a 1790 William Forster cello.) At the post-concert reception in one of the old colonial houses on the Music Mountain campus, they demonstrated effortless charm as they arrived (right) to mingle with their fans. One wished it had been a room full of high school and college students who were lining up to meet them and hoping, perhaps, to get their cellphone numbers or emails. If you want to see the extraordinary Duo Parnas in our region this summer, buy tickets now for their August 22 concert with Christian Steiner at Tannery Pond.
Gordon Hall at Music Mountain in Falls Village, June 14, 2009