By Lawrence Budmen

Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) was one of the most prodigiously gifted composers in the history music. While still in his teens, he wrote 13 string symphonies that stand as masterpieces of the string orchestral repertoire. He had served notice that he already was a great composer. At age 30 (in 1839) Mendelssohn composed his "Trio in D Minor," Opus 49, one of the great chamber music works of the romantic era. It was entirely appropriate that this masterpiece was the featured work on the Mainly Mozart Festival's concert devoted to "Prodigies" on June 1, 2003 at the Omni Colonnade Hotel, presented by the Coral Gables Cultural Affairs Council. 

The Mendelssohn "Trio" is a glorious outpouring of lyrical melody. From first note to last, this music sings. Three talented young musicians (all in their teens) gave a riveting performance of this wonderful score. Violinist Dimitriy Melkumov, cellist Asa Rubin, and pianist Derric Tay played with vigor and musical exuberance. Rubin's elegant phrasing of the second theme was a highlight of the opening Molto allegro ed agitato. The Andante con molto tranquillo had a nice sense of repose. The Scherzo: Leggiero e vivace was appropriately light and vivacious. The Finale: Allegro assai appassionato was imbued with intensity and a taut, strong willed musical sensibility. Throughout the performance, Tay's pianism was often dynamic and powerful. Melkumov lent strong musical drive, ably abetted by Rubin's supple handling of the cello line. This performance was coached by Ross Harbaugh, cellist of the Bergonzi String Quartet and faculty member of the University Of Miami School Of Music. His musical wisdom and expertise were evident in the performance. Here were three gifted prodigies lending their ringing musical voice to one of the true gems of the chamber music literature.

Earlier in the concert Tay offered a skillful performance of Mozart's "Sonata in C Major," K.309. Tay has studied with piano virtuosos Susan Starr, Ivan Davis, and Kemal Gekic. He possesses a strong, clean technique and good musical instincts. He captured much of the melodic beauty and lyrical line in the sonata's Andante un poco adagio. Tay also found the composer's musical wit in the Rondeau: Allegretto grazioso. His well focused musicality and command of the keyboard are admirable. His musical assurance bodes well for future artistic endeavors. 

Violinist Michael Tropepe (age 17) joined Mainly Mozart Festival artistic director and pianist Frank Cooper for Beethoven's great "Sonata for Piano and Violin in F Major," Opus 24 ("Spring"). Tropepe is an earnest, assured musician. He began the Allegro with a warm tone and good sense of phrasing. In the tricky Scherzo: Allegro molto, Tropepe was not always rhythmically precise. The Rondo: Allegro ma non troppo was played with spaciousness and broadly relaxed tempi. Cooper's performance of the piano line was admirable. The music sparkled through his elegant, characterful playing. 

Cooper's urbane commentary is one of the joys of this series. His reading of letters written by Mozart and Beethoven provided insight into the composer's musical thoughts and the era of composition. It was wonderful to see gifted young people devoting themselves with such enthusiasm to the music of the masters. The intense performance of the Mendelssohn was a vivid personification of prodigious musical gifts and a joyous musical celebration. 

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