For Chautauquans, this weekend’s chamber music concert will be an eclectic mix of familiar and foreign repertoire presented by members of the School of Music faculty. But for the performers, it will also be a miniature family reunion.
“It’s really fun to play with your family because you get to see each other,” said violinist Almita Vamos. “We don’t always get to see each other because we’re all so busy.”
At 4 p.m. Saturday, July 14, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Vamos will be joined by her sister, Eugenia Monacelli, daughter-in-law, Nurit Pacht, and son, Rami Vamos, for the latest installment in Chautauqua Chamber Music’s Resident Artist Series.
For Vamos, music and the arts are at the center of the family. The extended family includes actors, a painter, and classical musicians; each of the four performers in Saturday’s concert hold impressive resumes, as well.
Pacht, a concert violinist, has given recitals and concerts all over the world, including a U.S. State Department funded tour of Ukraine with Monacelli, a pianist. In her own career, Monacelli has performed as soloist with orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic and the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra.
Guitarist Rami Vamos has a multifaceted career as an educator, composer, and performer in New York City. He teaches at all levels, coordinating the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s children’s concert series while also serving on faculty at Concordia University.
Violinist Almita Vamos, the coordinator of Saturday’s concert, is one half of the teaching duo affectionately referred to as the “Famous Vamoses.” In addition to leading performance careers, Roland and Almita Vamos have taught many most prominent violinists, including Rachel Barton Pine and Jennifer Koh.
Pacht was also a student of the Vamoses. In 10th grade, she left her home in Texas for Minnesota, where she moved in with the Vamos family to study with the couple. She lived in the room next to her future husband, Rami Vamos — but they didn’t immediately hit it off.
“We didn’t really get along — we didn’t even like each other too much,” Pacht said. “It was when we met at a party of musicians many, many years later that we became friends, and then more.”
Now, they’re married with three children. Saturday they will perform “Two Pieces for Violin and Guitar,” which they composed together. Pacht said that the couple enjoys writing and performing their own music because it allows them to write for their own instruments in the way that they want to play them — so it ends up being more fun.
The program will also feature Almita Vamos performing music of Respighi and Schnittke with Monacelli accompanying her on piano. Vamos is particularly excited for those two pieces, she said, because they will likely be new to audience ears but are extremely interesting and enjoyable pieces.
Vamos said the Respighi is rarely performed because it’s difficult to put the violin and piano parts together due to their rhythmic complexity. But she’s not worried — performing with her sister is easy, she said.
“(When we were young), we had lessons and coachings together many times, even though we play different instruments,” Vamos said. “So we think of music similarly.”
Some of those lessons and coachings took place at Chautauqua Institution. While in school, Vamos and Monacelli came to the Institution in the summer to study with Mischa Mischakoff, then concertmaster of the CSO.
That’s part of the reason why Vamos chose to organize this concert — she said that she only gives performances at special times, and her time at the Institution this week is certainly that.