My first entrance to Kuhmo Arts Centre took my breath away. You are enveloped in an elegant swathe of timber: warm in colour and warm in acoustic, comfortable and beautiful, featuring the only wooden fan vaulting I’ve ever seen. The next distinctive thing about concerts at Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival is that they tend to feature several different ensembles, so each of the works in this concert was performed by a different set of musicians.

Irina Zakharenkova and string players © David Karlin
Irina Zakharenkova and string players
© David Karlin

The common thread of this concert was that of musical falsehoods – none of the four works were written by the composer whose name was on the tin. We started with one of the most successful of all such constructions: Tomaso Albinoni’s Adagio in G minor, written by musicologist Remo Giazotto – there’s scholarly argument over whether any Albinoni music was involved at all. But while you can argue about the work’s provenance, you can’t dispute its effectiveness: a straightforward melody set over a falling ground bass makes for an unashamed tearjerker. It’s usually heard with a full size orchestra and a organ: the chamber format – with just five musicians – gives it precision and shape while maintaining every bit of the impact. Francesco Pedrini’s chamber organ was understated and uncompromisingly steady, the rock on which the musical edifice is built; each note of Maria Krykov’s pizzicato double bass was delicately positioned; Sergey Malov’s interventions on viola were telling below the histrionic violin parts.

The Concertino no. 1 in G, whose attribution to Pergolesi is deemed by Grove to be “extremely doubtful” starts with a slow Grave movement whose use of suspended chords picks up where Albinoni left off. The ensemble here was larger, with the addition of two violins and a cello (and a harpsichord in place of the organ), but sounded substantially different in timbre than the instrument count alone would have warranted. We heard a very blended, clean sound in the strings, which became particularly evident when the music switched to Allegro for the second movement: the playing was sprightly, keenly accented and showed great precision in its togetherness. Slowing down again for the introduction to the third movement, Trey Lee’s cello gave us some phrasing of rare beauty.

Haydn’s String Quartet in F major “Serenade” was in fact written by his avid admirer Roman Hoffstetter, who must have thoroughly absorbed his role model’s style. The work sparkles with the wit that we associate with Haydn, with Dorel Fodoreanu’s cello being a notable contributor, and the famous Serenade of the second movement is a beautiful miniature with a gentle melody over a pizzicato ground. The minuet was played with a delicate touch and you could see the broad grins on all four musicians’ faces as the work ended.

Mozart did write the cadenza for what is known as the Piano Concerto in F, but the rest of the work was written by Andrea Luchesi. Here again, we were seeing a string orchestra pared down to just five players, with the result that the contours of the music came through with particular clarity. The format, however, must put considerable stress on the pianist in terms of achieving the musical effects while playing softly enough not to drown out the strings, and Irina Zakharenkova was very impressive in doing so: we got all the musical colour we might have wished for, but played with the delicacy required to blend with the other musicians rather than fight against them.

All in all, a thoroughly satisfying selection of musical frauds. Who says crime doesn't pay?