This will be an unusually rich summer for string quartets, but Music Mountain will send it into the stratosphere with a schedule in which every concert but one will feature a string quartet, in some cases augmented with a piano, an extra stringed instrument, or winds. The St. Petersburg Quartet, which has been a mainstay of Music Mountain for some years opened the season with a benefit concert including Beethoven Op. 18, no. 4, Tchaikovsky, and the Brahms Piano Quintet with Misha Dichter. The Arianna Quartet followed this with Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Op. 30, and the Franck Piano Quintet with Tanya Bannister.
Music Mountain has offered extraordinary chamber music since 1930, when it was founded as a summer home for the Gordon String Quartet. Audiences loyally drive up the winding country road to enjoy the beauty of the grounds and its surroundings, its long, narrow hall with its superb acoustics, and the major chamber groups who play there. Jazz is also a major component of the season, and there is also choral music. On the lawn which spreads out down the hillside from Gordon Hall, you will also find a tent with books for sale, a snack bar, wooden benches under the trees, as well as some rather funky abstract sculptures. There had been a violent storm the week before, which snapped the trunks of several large trees surrounding the lawn. The season, called “Borrowed Melody” this year, because works with themes borrowed from outside sources or the composer’s own works will be worked into most of the programs, got off to a strong start with a special benefit concert featuring the great St. Petersburg String Quartet. Charles Rosen was to have joined them for the Schumann Piano Quintet. He was unfortunately unable to play, but Daniel Epstein filled the gap with intelligence and sensitivity.