On August 2nd in the Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library, violinist Tim Fain and pianist William Ransom played a concert entitled “American Idols” for the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival‘s 33rd season.

Under the artistic direction of none other than William Ransom himself, the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival has brought world-renowned musicians to the mountains of North Carolina for many years, and violinist Tim Fain is no exception. Well known for being featured on the soundtracks of films such as Black Swan and 12 Years a Slave, Fain has certainly earned his reputation.

On this program, there were several different interpretations of “American” as works from Philip Glass, Aaron Copland, Kevin Puts, Leonard Bernstein and, strangely enough, Belgian-born Henri Vieuxtemps were featured.

Opening the concert was Glass’ virtuosic work Pendulum (a piece originally written for piano trio), immediately showing off both the chemistry between Ransom and Fain as well as Fain’s incredible talent. In an intimate setting such as that of the Library’s stage, Fain and Ransom were able to play together so closely it was as though they were of one mind. The dramatic ending of the piece was certainly the highlight, as the audience burst into applause before the final note had finished echoing through the room.

The next piece on the bill was Copland’s Sonata for Piano and Violin. Exciting though it is, it was decidedly not the most important piece on the list, as the following work was where the fun really began.

To close the first half, Fain alone took the stage to perform an impressive work from American composer Kevin Puts, simply titled Arches for solo violin. The piece was given its name as reference to its symmetrical form, which alternates between caprice and aria. The piece starts off quickly and quietly, with a beautiful melody that builds and builds, eventually becoming a flurry of melodies and harmonies that left the entire audience breathless.

The second half featured excerpts from another Glass piece, the two chaconne movements (here and here) of Partitia for solo violin, actually written by Glass for Fain. This sweet set of excerpts showed off a decidedly different side of his artistic talents. Following that, we had three pieces from Bernstein’s West Side Story: “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere,” and “America.” In this set, Fain was able to make his instrument sing, much to the enjoyment of the crowd. Aside from Arches, this was my favorite performance of the evening.

The last piece, Souvenir d’Amerique by Henri Vieuxtemps, is a very virtuosic take on the classic American tune “Yankee Doodle.” Both Fain and Ransom made several jokes about the piece, and both seemed to greatly enjoy preparing and performing it. By the end of the piece, the audience members were on their feet, encouraging Fain and Ransom to perform a short encore before the evening was done.

A most welcome touch to this concert was Fain’s method of addressing the audience before each piece. Warm and down to earth, Fain spoke of his experiences around the world with each piece, laughing and joking as he went. I greatly enjoyed both his musicianship and candor, and I cannot wait to see what other great things this artist does in the future.

Tim Fain will next perform for the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival’s final gala concert, which will be held Sunday, August 3, at 5:00 p.m. in Highlands. For details, click here.