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Chamber Music

Lyrica Baroque to Showcase Era’s ‘Hidden Gems’ in Recital

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Lyrica Baroque

Chautauqua’s season is quickly coming to an end, and the Saturday chamber music series is going out in style — Baroque style.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, August 17 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, mixed instrumental and vocal ensemble Lyrica Baroque will perform in the final concert of this summer’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series.

The members of the group are oboist Jaren Atherholt, violinist Eric Silberger, cellist Daniel Lelchuk, pianist Bradley Moore, soprano Sarah Jane McMahon, tenor Paul Groves and Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra bassoonist Benjamin Atherholt. The group is based in New Orleans, a city mostly known for its jazz tradition, but also the place where America’s first documented opera took place.

“The history of opera in New Orleans is really, really cool,” said Jaren Atherholt, founder of the ensemble. “So I like that the group can honor that and spread the word about that. … Not only is there a rich operatic history, but also classical music and symphonic and chamber music.”

The Baroque era was characterized by its grandeur and attention to detail: the gold palatial splendor of Versailles; the extravagant paintings of Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio; the ornate compositions of Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel — all were part of this time period in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The ensemble is so named because when it first formed, the group performed Bach’s many cantatas, composed in the Baroque era to be sung alongside instrumentation. Those cantatas have plenty of repertoire for winds, strings and voice. Today’s concert, however, will focus on many lesser-known pieces.

“The point of this program was ‘hidden gems of the Baroque era,’ ” Atherholt said.

The show will begin with Handel’s “As Steals the Morn,” one of Atherholt’s personal favorites.

“It’s like two duets in one piece, because the oboe and the bassoon act as the soprano and tenor in the instrumental accompaniment, and then the soprano and tenor sing,” she said. “It’s gorgeous.”

The program also includes several arias: “Quel nouveau ciel” (What a new sky), an aria for tenor, from Christoph Willibald Gluck’s French opera Orphée et Eurydice; “Lascia ch’io pianga” (Let me cry), a soprano aria from Handel’s Rinaldo; two arias from Handel’s Semele — “Endless pleasure,” for soprano, and “Wherever you walk,” for tenor — and “Love too frequently betrayed,” from Igor Stravinsky’s opera The Rake’s Progress.

Several of these arias, such as Gluck’s and Stravinsky’s, are pieces rarely heard in performance outside their original contexts.

To finish the program, the ensemble will perform a 30-minute, instrumental piece: Maurice Ravel’s Piano Trio, for piano, violin and cello.   

“That’s a masterpiece in and of itself,” Atherholt said. “It’s just stunning — French Ravel at its finest.”

Though every member of the group will not perform every piece, they all collaborated in putting together the program so that there are pieces that will give each voice and instrument a chance to shine. Lyrica Baroque is on the larger side when it comes to chamber ensembles, and unique in that it combines instrumental and vocal performance — something the Resident Artist Series has not yet seen.

“I love seeing hard work coming to fruition,” Atherholt said. “Everything about the ensemble and the work we do together feels unique and inspired, and I really like that.”

The group has never performed at Chautauqua before, but Atherholt said she is excited to meet — and hopefully inspire — a new audience.

“I think it will be such an uplifting afternoon experience,” she said.

Donald Sinta Quartet to Present Sax Repertoire

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The saxophone is deeply rooted in contemporary music — but, according to the Donald Sinta Quartet, the instrument’s capabilities are broader than many people know.

The all-saxophone chamber music quartet will perform at 4 p.m. Monday, August 12 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. Their program extends across centuries, from Ludwig Van Beethoven to brand-new compositions.

The four members – Dan Graser, Zach Stern, Joe Girard and Danny Hawthorne-Foss — formed the quartet as students at the University of Michigan and named it after legendary Michigan saxophone professor Donald Sinta. After performing with their university’s symphony orchestra in Los Angeles, Beijing and Shanghai, the members decided to keep playing.

In the chamber music world, all-saxophone groups are extremely rare. According to Graser, the quartet keeps that unfamiliarity in mind when selecting and performing music.

“For probably 90% or more of the audience, this is probably their first experience of a classical saxophone quartet,” Graser said. “So rather than only playing music that only a saxophonist or certain contemporary music fans would understand, we like to present as wide a palate as possible.”

The saxophone is young compared to other popular instruments. Belgian musician Adolphe Sax invented it in the 1840s — less than 30 years before Chautauqua Institution’s first assembly. Despite how young the saxophone is, the quartet members perform music old and new: classical pieces transcribed for saxophone and new compositions with the instrument in mind.

Graser said many modern pieces in the saxophone’s repertoire draw from the instrument’s history.

“What makes (contemporary music for saxophone) accessible a lot of times is when composers take inspiration from the saxophone’s history in other genres, and use that as a thematic idea in the repertoire,” Graser said, adding that “Ex Machina” and “Tango Virtuoso” from today’s program take inspiration from the saxophone’s background.

But the program also includes Beethoven, Dmitri Shostakovich and traditional Irish music. Graser said the concert will illustrate the saxophone’s versatility.

“Folks can see how flexible and chameleon-like the saxophone can be — how many different sound colors, how many different genres you can suggest within just one program,” Graser said.

According to Graser, a diverse program can help illustrate the saxophone’s capabilities next to more traditional ensembles like string quartets.

“(A broad program can) show not only that we’re totally capable of making a really great classical and Romantic string quartet repertoire sound good — or in many cases even better — but that we also have a wealth of music that’s being written right now that people can really get into,” Graser said.

The Donald Sinta Quartet performs from memory and speaks to the audience about each piece, a strategy to engage with the audience, Graser said. The musicians do this, he said, “to be as engaging as (they) can.”

“But the main goal is to present the highest-quality chamber music that we can create,” he said.

M&M Piano Duo Offers Chamber Recital and Taste of French Music

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Martin Dubé
Kanae Matsumoto

The M&M Piano Duo has something as sweet as their name to offer in their performance this weekend: a program of French music full of dances and delights.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, August 3 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, School of Music faculty members Martin Dubé and Kanae Matsumoto will perform a recital of piano duets, some for two pianos and some for four-hand playing, the latter of which they will play together on the same piano.

The name Dubé and Matsumoto gave themselves, the M&M Piano Duo, is both a combination of their names (Martin and Matsumoto) and a tribute to Marlena Malas, the chair of the Voice Program who is on leave this summer, and to whom they credit their presence at Chautauqua.

“Without her we (would not be) here,” Matsumoto said. “We owe her a lot: how we listen to music, how we feel music, how we listen to each other, how we love each other. … She is a very important person in our lives.”

The recital will begin with Francis Poulenc’s Sonata for Piano Four Hands, a relatively straightforward piece meant to sound childlike and sweet. As it was originally written as part of the salon music tradition and meant to be performed for only a parlor room full of guests, Dubé and Matsumoto face the challenge of keeping that intimate sound while magnifying it for the concert hall.

“It is the simplest music,” Dubé said. “Not necessarily the most easy, but it’s not profound music at all. … It’s almost like little rhymes.”

This will be followed by Claude Debussy’s “Petite Suite,” also for four hands, which is made up of four smaller movements: “En Bateau” (On a Boat), “Cortège” (Procession), “Menuet” (Minuet) and “Ballet.”

“It’s such a delicate, pleasant, playful (piece),” Matsumoto said. “(Like) French dessert.”

Next, the program will return to Poulenc, as Dubé and Matsumoto play his Sonata for Two Pianos. Written in the post-war turmoil of early 1950s France, the piece makes use of conflict between the pianos to paint a portrait of the world at that time. It is the most solemn piece on the program, and a particular favorite of Dubé’s.

“(It’s) very humorous, but it can be so profound and so touching, and these harmonies really get me a lot,” Dubé said.

The two will take on a hefty piece for the finale of the recital: Maurice Ravel’s “La Valse” (The Waltz). If Debussy’s “Petite Suite” is dessert, then this piece is the main course. Originally written for a full orchestra, this version distills all the color and complexity of dozens of instruments into just two pianos.

“It’s really the pièce de résistance of the show,” Dubé said. “It’s a big shebang; it’s great. I hope we play it so well that everyone is going to waltz leaving the hall.”

The piece begins chaotically, like a ballroom full of people, before the melody of the waltz emerges. Throughout, the music is meant to evoke the imagery of a big dance at a ball.

“Lights coming in, people swirling, some people having a little affair in the corner of the room — you just use your imagination,” Matsumoto said. “Again, another delight, … just the fact that we are playing it — oh my God, ooh-la-la.”

It will be Dubé and Matsumoto’s first time playing in concert together. In many cases, pianists playing duets together for the first time can struggle to adjust to each other’s styles and musical understandings, but Dubé and Matsumoto have found that they have meshed together easily. Part of this, they agreed, likely comes from their experience as vocal coaches. They are trained to listen closely to the vocalists and change their playing to accommodate the singer’s performance; so, when playing with each other, they know how to listen and follow each other’s lead.

“Sometimes I have the illusion of — we’re playing together, but it’s as if I’m playing alone,” Matsumoto said. “Because it’s so inclusive, because we’re so in sync, I don’t feel like we’re two separate entities.”

Though the program covers a range of emotions from humor and wit, to anger and sorrow, Dubé and Matsumoto are mostly excited to have fun with it.

“There are some moments of serious music, but that’s not what I want to hear from (the audience), like, ‘Oh my God, that was so touching,’ ” Dubé said. “I want them to say, ‘Oh my God, you guys were having a blast there.’ ”

Student Percussion Ensemble to Put on Rare Chamber Recital

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School of Music Percussion instructor Michael Burritt gives instruction to Connor Nixdorf during a rehearsal on Wednesday, August 1, 2018 in Bellinger Hall. HALDAN KIRSCH/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Though there’s been no shortage of chamber music at Chautauqua this summer, one recital in particular will offer a rare musical experience: an ensemble made entirely of percussionists.

At 3:30 p.m. today, August 2, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, School of Music guest percussion faculty Michael Burritt will perform in a program he put together with a student percussion ensemble made up of Instrumental Program students Emma Gierszal, Alvin Macasero, Michael Metz, Zachary Strong and Ajay Wadhwani. Altogether, they will play more than 20 percussion instruments throughout the recital, which will feature four contemporary pieces — three of which were written within the past five years, including one written by Burritt himself. The students will play the first three pieces, then Burritt will join them for the last.

All of the music falls within the realm of postminimalism, a type of music that takes the repetitive rhythmic ideas of minimalism and expands upon them in dynamic ways.

The first piece, by Drew Worden, is called “Black Smoke, White Smoke.” Worden wrote and premiered the piece while a student at Chautauqua several years ago. It uses both traditional and unique percussion instruments, from drums to wooden planks.

“It’s kind of a fun piece,” Burritt said. “It’s a quintet, so (it) can keep everyone busy, and there’s a lot of different sounds.”

Following this will be “Death Wish” by Gemma Peacocke, played by four people on two marimbas; the piece is a commentary on sexual assault and its lasting effects. Burritt chose this piece as part of a conscious effort to have a woman composer on the program, as well as for its artistic merit.

“It’s a beautiful piece,” Burritt said. “It’s very minimalistic and very melodic and harmonic in nature.”

Next on the program is a set of three movements from Philip Glass’ “Águas da Amazônia” (Waters of the Amazon). Each movement is named after a river in Brazil: “Madeira River,” “Xingu River” and “Amazon River.” Originally written as an opera for an ensemble using traditional, handmade Brazilian instruments, it was transcribed to be performed by a percussion quartet. The piece uses marimba, vibraphone, synthesizer, desk bells and melodica.

“It’s kind of an interesting sound world that is created through the Philip Glass pieces,” Burritt said. “They’re very, what we call, consonant pieces. … The harmonic language is going to be very familiar to people.”

These pieces have only ever been played by one other group; this will be the first time a student group will perform them.

Lastly, Burritt will join the students for the performance of “White Pines,” which is the second movement of one of his larger pieces, “The Home Trilogy.” The title is a reference to snow-covered pine trees in the winter; it is very energetic, with marimba somewhat mimicking the effect of a strumming guitar, and frequent use of hand drums.

“It’s supposed to create a lot of energy, both from the rhythmic nature of what I wrote (and) also from the colors of the ensemble,” Burritt said. “It’s almost like a soaring burst of energy for about 10 minutes.”

Percussionists do not often have the chance to dominate the stage. When playing in the orchestra, they are usually positioned in the back and spend a lot of time waiting for their parts to come around. In a recital like this one, however, the percussionists are the main event, giving them an opportunity to perform in sustained ways, rather than in short bursts. It is a test of their focus and technical mastery.

“You’re responsible on a whole other level for carrying the musical intensity or musical narrative for the whole piece,” Burritt said. “You’re in it more, so that in and of itself creates a different challenge and a different experience — a good one.”

It is likely a new experience for the audience, too; unlike most other chamber ensembles, percussion groups are steeped in strong rhythmic energy and the ability to switch often from instrument to instrument. The nature of percussion instrument sounds is an entirely different aural realm than traditional chamber music groups centered on strings and woodwinds, as well.

“(Percussion) can be very viscerally impactful,” Burritt said. “Also the colors are very beautiful, so the timbres or sound colors will also probably be a new world for (the audience). And I think visually, percussion is very stimulating to watch because there’s a lot of movement.”

For Burritt, it is a great chance to work with students, an experience he always finds invigorating and inspiring.

“I love working with students because they have a unique energy, and they are the future of what we do,” Burritt said.

Violinist Augustin Hadelich & Pianist Weiss to Perform in Chamber Duo

072919_val lick Staff writer Soloists Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss have performed their way across America — and developed a close musical connection. Today, the two musicians will join forces in a powerful chamber music duo. Hadelich, a violinist and Musical America’s 2018 Instrumentalist of the Year, and Weiss, a pianist and Classical Recording Foundation’s 2010 Young Artist of the Year, will perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. The program is spread across two centuries; it begins with Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 1800 Violin Sonata No. 4 in A minor, and ends with John Adams’ 1995 “Road Movies.” Hadelich has performed with every major orchestra in America — and collected a Grammy Award along the way. In a 2018 interview with Interlude magazine, he said that “music is vital to the human spirit. It’s essential to play music written today and not live only in the past. That being said, in any era of music history, the majority of music written isn’t great, and our time is not an exception. As time passes, it’s as if a fog lifts, and gradually it becomes clear what the great, enduring works of art are.” At 35, Hadelich is a youthful voice in the world of elite musicians. Born in Tuscany to German parents, he attended Juilliard and has been a New Yorker — and an internationally touring artist — ever since. Hadelich has performed solo, with orchestras and in chamber groups. He told Interlude that chamber music is a more personal interaction with listeners. “In chamber music and recitals, I can explore the softer dynamics and more subtle nuances, and feel the more intimate involvement of the audience,” Hadelich said in 2018. “In terms of communication with the other musicians though, I actually find little difference between how I communicate with other musicians in a concerto and in chamber music. There is no concerto that does not require the soloist to listen intently and interact closely with the orchestra throughout.”    Weiss, another young and rising musician, agrees. While chamber music is a more intimate setting, Weiss said, it requires the same careful listening as any musical performance. “All music is chamber music — response and communication, dialogue and listening,” he said. Weiss and Hadelich have more than just a musical connection; the two have been friends for years, Weiss said. “We became friends years ago at the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and connected immediately, both personally and musically,” Weiss said. “We always make each other laugh, and we have a great time making music together.” Weiss said he is excited for today’s multi-century program. “The program is diverse and wide-ranging and filled with wonderful challenges and amazing music,” Weiss said. “The Beethoven Sonata is unbelievably taut and intense. (Johannes Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100) is warm, emotional and inspired. (Claude Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G Minor, L. 40) is a masterpiece of gesture, color and drama. And ‘Road Movies’ is so fun to perform; it’s so rhythmically complex and intricate. I think the audience will hold their breath from excitement.” Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, said the two artists fit together like “puzzle pieces” in a week of musical performances. When Moore asked Hadelich about the possibility of a chamber music recital at Chautauqua, she said, he proposed a duo with Weiss. “This is a week of intertwined collaborations — it’s a wonderful puzzle piece,” Moore said. “Even though everyone loves Augustin here, they have never heard him in a small, intimate chamber setting at Chautauqua.” Moore said the two musicians will perform in various settings throughout the week. Weiss will perform with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Tuesday in a premiere of American composer Jeremy Gill’s “Concerto D’Avorio,” and Hadelich will perform with the CSO on Thursday, in a concert featuring pieces by Russian composers Sergei Prokofiev and Sergei Rachmaninoff. Complimentary tickets for this concert must be obtained at the Main Gate Welcome Center starting at 7 a.m. today. It will also be livestreamed in the Hall of Christ.
Hadelich

Soloists Augustin Hadelich and Orion Weiss have performed their way across America — and developed a close musical connection. Today, the two musicians will join forces in a powerful chamber music duo.

Hadelich, a violinist and Musical America’s 2018 Instrumentalist of the Year, and Weiss, a pianist and Classical Recording Foundation’s 2010 Young Artist of the Year, will perform at 4 p.m. today, July 29, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. The program is spread across two centuries; it begins with Ludwig Van Beethoven’s 1800 Violin Sonata No. 4 in A minor, and ends with John Adams’ 1995 “Road Movies.”

Hadelich has performed with every major orchestra in America — and collected a Grammy Award along the way. In a 2018 interview with Interlude magazine, he said that “music is vital to the human spirit. It’s essential to play music written today and not live only in the past. That being said, in any era of music history, the majority of music written isn’t great, and our time is not an exception. As time passes, it’s as if a fog lifts, and gradually it becomes clear what the great, enduring works of art are.”

At 35, Hadelich is a youthful voice in the world of elite musicians. Born in Tuscany to German parents, he attended Juilliard and has been a New Yorker — and an internationally touring artist — ever since.

Hadelich has performed solo, with orchestras and in chamber groups. He told Interlude that chamber music is a more personal interaction with listeners.

“In chamber music and recitals, I can explore the softer dynamics and more subtle nuances, and feel the more intimate involvement of the audience,” Hadelich said in 2018. “In terms of communication with the other musicians though, I actually find little difference between how I communicate with other musicians in a concerto and in chamber music. There is no concerto that does not require the soloist to listen intently and interact closely with the orchestra throughout.”

Weiss, another young and rising musician, agrees. While chamber music is a more intimate setting, Weiss said, it requires the same careful listening as any musical performance.

“All music is chamber music — response and communication, dialogue and listening,” he said.

Weiss and Hadelich have more than just a musical connection; the two have been friends for years, Weiss said.

Brooklyn, NY – November 14, 2016 – Helmet perform at Music Hall of Williamsburg

“We became friends years ago at the Seattle Chamber Music Society, and connected immediately, both personally and musically,” Weiss said. “We always make each other laugh, and we have a great time making music together.”

Weiss said he is excited for today’s multi-century program.

“The program is diverse and wide-ranging and filled with wonderful challenges and amazing music,” Weiss said. “The Beethoven Sonata is unbelievably taut and intense. (Johannes Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 100) is warm, emotional and inspired. (Claude Debussy’s Violin Sonata in G Minor, L. 40) is a masterpiece of gesture, color and drama. And ‘Road Movies’ is so fun to perform; it’s so rhythmically complex and intricate. I think the audience will hold their breath from excitement.”

Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, said the two artists fit together like “puzzle pieces” in a week of musical performances. When Moore asked Hadelich about the possibility of a chamber music recital at Chautauqua, she said, he proposed a duo with Weiss.

“This is a week of intertwined collaborations — it’s a wonderful puzzle piece,” Moore said. “Even though everyone loves Augustin here, they have never heard him in a small, intimate chamber setting at Chautauqua.”

Moore said the two musicians will perform in various settings throughout the week. Weiss will perform with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Tuesday in a premiere of American composer Jeremy Gill’s “Concerto D’Avorio,” and Hadelich will perform with the CSO on Thursday, in a concert featuring pieces by Russian composers Sergei Prokofiev and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Complimentary tickets for this concert must be obtained at the Main Gate Welcome Center starting at 7 a.m. today. It will also be livestreamed in the Hall of Christ.

Tale of Two Jons: Manasse and Nakamatsu to Play Clarinet and Piano Duo

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This weekend, two Jons will come together for an evening of lively and varied chamber music rooted in Romanticism, jazz and ragtime.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, July 27 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, clarinetist Jon Manasse and pianist Jon Nakamatsu will perform several pieces as a piano and clarinet duo, some of which were originally composed specifically for them. This is the fifth recital in the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series; so far this summer, this series has seen pianists play alongside string instruments and has featured several all-string ensembles — but this piano and clarinet combination will be something new.

“I think that those two instruments and the combination of their sounds really illustrate the broad vocabulary of the clarinet, and even of the piano, to a certain extent,” Nakamatsu said.

Nakamatsu and Manasse met through a mutual manager who thought they would work well together, and upon first performing together found that they clicked with each other musically in an intuitive way they had rarely found with other performers. Since then, they have played and toured together for 15 years.

“From the very first note we ever played together, it was something extraordinary for both of us,” Nakamatsu said. “I don’t think I’ve ever played with anyone, and as often, with whom I feel this type of almost uncanny common sense.”

The two attribute their ability to collaborate so well to their shared musical aesthetic and an easy communication that can be done without words and even without rehearsal.

“I guess the closest thing is some sort of telepathy,” Manasse said. “When we play together, there is some intuitive sense of each other where the musical connection is seamless. … We just sort of honor it as another entity.”

The first piece on the program is Johannes Brahms’ Clarinet Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 120. It has four movements, each of which has its own distinct mood. The first is somber, the second is reminiscent of a love song, the third has the feel of a dance piece and the fourth is upbeat and exciting.

Brahms came out of retirement to write this piece, struck by inspiration after hearing clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld play. Composed near the end of his life, the work — which is dedicated to Mühlfeld — is often rather melancholy, but it still has many moments of hope and warmth.

“(It) resonated from a really honest, deep, emotional space,” Manasse said. “It’s as true as any music could possibly be to the composer.”

Next, the duo will play Leonard Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. Whereas Brahms wrote his clarinet and piano sonata at the end of his career, Bernstein wrote this one at the beginning of his; it is his very first published work. Two movements long, the piece has jazz elements and markers of Bernstein’s style that audibly foreshadow the music of West Side Story that Bernstein would write around 15 years later.

“It’s really exciting and compelling,” Manasse said. “There are emotional moments and jazzy moments.”

The Bernstein piece will be followed by two of Gordon Goodwin’s “Four Views (for clarinet and piano),” which was originally composed for Manasse and Nakamatsu. The two commissioned Goodwin, a Hollywood composer who has worked on the scores for films like “The Incredibles” and “National Treasure,” because of how imaginative and fun they found his work to be. Nakamatsu and Manasse will be playing two of the four “views” — one slow and one fast.

“They’re not named, so you’re kind of left to create your own vignette from listening to it, but they’re short and fun,” Nakamatsu said.

To finish the recital, the two will play another commissioned piece by John Novacek, called “Four Rags for Two Jons.” The rags are energetic and complex, with an improvisatory jazz sound typical of the ragtime style. The piece is a significant technical challenge to the performers, but it is also good-humored and fun.

“If everyone’s having a good time, that’s great, because we’re working really hard,” Nakamatsu said.

Both Manasse and Nakamatsu are here for a limited time as School of Music faculty, and Nakamatsu will also be giving a public piano master class to Piano Program students at 2 p.m. Monday in Sherwood-Marsh Studios.

Brian Zeger & Friends to Paint ‘Portrait of Paris’ in Chamber Music Concert

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Brian Zeger

The second performance in this year’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, “Brian Zeger & Friends,” will feature pianist and guest voice faculty Brian Zeger alongside three School of Music faculty: violin instructor Nurit Pacht, chamber music coach and viola instructor Kathryn Votapek and cello faculty Tobias Werner. The performance begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, July 6 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

The performance will focus on French music and composers from the late 19th century. Zeger and Pacht will begin by playing two pieces by Claude Debussy: “Cortège (procession) from ‘Petite Suite’ ” and “La fille aux cheveux de lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair).” Then, Zeger will play two solo pieces by Emmanuel Chabrier: “Danse villageoise (Village Dance)” and “Feuillet d’album (Album Leaf).” Finally, all four musicians will play Gabriel Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 45.

All three of these composers lived and worked in Paris in the 1800s, and all the pieces were written in the same decade: the 1880s. By putting these pieces together, Zeger hopes to give the audience a musical portrait of Paris during that time.

“It’s marvelous to create a program with a lot of variety where you might have an American piece, a Russian piece, a French piece — but there’s also something, I think, that can be very seductive about just staying within one world,” Zeger said. “This program is very much like you’re being transported back into that world because all these pieces come from that same environment.”

The Debussy pieces are “charming and short,” Zeger said, each one only a few minutes long. Written when Debussy was a young composer in his 20s, they are relatively uncomplicated and serve as a lovely introduction to the French theme and style of music.

The Debussy(s) are very good curtain-raisers,” Zeger said. “They’ve got really good tunes, they’re really hummable.”

The solo piano pieces by Chabrier are not often played, but Zeger finds them to be catchy and charming.

“They’re disarming, always surprising harmonically and really fun to play pianistically,” Zeger said. “I love them.”

The concert will finish off with the much longer Faure piano quartet, which is the centerpiece around which Zeger planned the program.

I’ve known it all my life, and I really love it,” he said. “I think it’s undeservedly little-played.

Faure’s Piano Quartet No. 1 is better known, but this second quartet has more depth and range to it, Zeger said. He last played it in concert about 20 years ago, and is excited by the chance to perform it again.

“The thing I find really remarkable about it is the third movement — the slow movement — which for me is one of the most profound and haunting pieces for chamber ensemble that I know,” Zeger said. “It particularly features the viola, and the sound of a viola well-played has a very mellow, somber, dark quality, and I think Faure takes advantage of what the viola brings to the ensemble.”

Votapek, on viola, also has great affection for the Faure quartet, and hopes that if audiences don’t know Faure, they will discover and love his work for the first time; and if they do know Faure, they will connect with this, one of his lesser-known works.

“I want them to be moved, like when you go to a movie and you weep,” Votapek said. “I want people to be viscerally moved by this piece.”

Zeger and Votapek have played together once before, last season, but it will be Zeger’s first time performing with Pacht and Werner. However, the unfamiliarity is exciting to him, and he knows that given how talented and experienced they all are, they will have little trouble coming together very well in concert.

I know they’re all really accomplished professionals, so I look forward to that,” Zeger said. “I think it’s fun to mix it up with new people. … It’s wonderful to meet new colleagues.

ChamberFest Cleveland to Perform ‘Conversation’ of Classical Music

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ChamberFest Cleveland

The members of ChamberFest Cleveland are bringing three classical masterpieces back into conversation.

The group will perform “Precocious Virtuosity,” a set of three compositions at 4 p.m. today, July 1, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. This recital focuses on composers who were catapulted into musical fame at young ages: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn and Moritz Moszkowski.

ChamberFest Cleveland is a yearly festival that features both new and returning members every summer. Their performance today opens with Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, K. 478.

Jessica Bodner, a celebrated violinist, Harvard University faculty member and repeat performer with ChamberFest Cleveland, said the piece’s precise quality makes it perfect for chamber groups — especially for her group.

“The Mozart is a beautifully pristine, perfect piece of music,” Bodner said. “The group of people that I’m playing it with are wonderful musicians — it’s a total dream to play that pristine piece in that situation.”

ChamberFest Cleveland will also perform Mendelssohn’s Octet in E-flat major, Op. 20. Bodner said the popular piece is a key part of any chamber musician’s repertoire — and that its composer perfectly fits the theme of “Precocious Virtuosity.”

“Mendelssohn was a prodigy; he wrote this piece when he was 16 years old,” Bodner said. “It’s just this outpouring of a masterpiece from such a masterful mind.”

The last piece on ChamberFest Cleveland’s program is Moszkowski’s Suite for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 71. Itamar Zorman, an internationally acclaimed performer and three-time violinist with ChamberFest Cleveland, said Moszkowski’s piece is the least known on the program, but that its melodic, Romantic qualities make it another masterpiece.

“The piece that’s less well-known is the Moszkowski,” Zorman said. “This piece is very brilliant, first of all, and wonderfully melodic. Throughout, it has something of … this Romantic spirit; a somewhat gentle, personal sort of music-making.”

According to Bodner, that “personal sort of music-making” is not limited to one piece. Instead, it is a key quality of chamber music — a performance style that features a small group of musicians with individual roles.

“I think that chamber music performances can be one of the most dynamic performances, because there’s this personal energy that’s pulsing through the group when everyone is communicating well,” Bodner said.

Zorman agreed, describing chamber music as a form of conversation.

“From the audience’s perspective, part of the excitement is just watching (the musicians) interact — watching how they literally communicate with notes, with music on the stage,” Zorman said.

With a small group like ChamberFest Cleveland, Zorman said, unique personalities and styles can shine — and they can create something new.

“From a broader perspective, when you put a small group on stage, you put different personalities and playing styles (together),” Zorman said. “It’s like you’re putting together a dish. Sometimes things really don’t work well, but when they do, the sum can be larger than its parts. Something new and special can come out of it.”

To Bodner, chamber music is unique among performance types because every member performs an individual part.

“A soloist has the responsibility of just taking care of that one part, and in an orchestra you don’t really get an individual voice because you’re part of a larger section,” Bodner said. “But with chamber music, you have a soloistic element where you’re the only person playing your part, but then you get to play off of each other and have this great dialogue.”

According to new member and Juilliard School violinist, Nathan Meltzer, the festival filled a major gap in Cleveland when founders Franklin and Diana Cohen launched it in 2012.

“Most of the great chamber music festivals are in vacation areas,” Meltzer said. “There are some great ones in Florida, in Upstate New York, in California — and (the Cohens) wanted to bring high-quality chamber music to some areas that weren’t being represented fairly (in chamber music). They just wanted to bring some great music to the community of Cleveland.”

Alexander Gavrylyuk and Aaron Berofsky to Present ‘Introspective and Beautiful’ Chamber Pieces

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Alexander Gavrylyuk

Chautauqua School of Music’s Alexander Gavrylyuk, Heintzelman Family Artistic Adviser of the Piano Program, and Aaron Berofsky, violin faculty and chair of strings, will perform together at 4 p.m. Saturday, June 29 in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, in the first recital of the 2019 Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series.

Gavrylyuk and Berofsky will play three pieces: Johannes Brahms’ Sonata No. 2 in A major, Robert Schumann’s Sonata No. 1 in A minor and Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D major.

They’re such introspective, beautiful pieces, and in a way they have that in common with each other,” Berofsky said. “At the same time, they’re stylistically very different.”

Gavrylyuk said the pieces are some of the most well-known violin and piano sonatas; both artists are familiar with them and have played them many times before.

“It’s like a friend you keep revisiting,” Berofsky said.

Brahms’ piece is about 20 minutes long, Berofsky said, and is probably the gentlest of the three pieces.

“It is a very philosophical work,” Gavrylyuk said. “It’s structured very much like a baroque building … with a very solid foundation but with a very delicate structure above the foundation. It is quite humorous at times; at other times it is very romantic and very lyrical. I think one hears the songs of love there, as well as prayers (and) intimate moments.”

The piece begins with the marking Allegro amabile, which essentially translates to “fast and friendly,” evoking a mood that continues throughout the piece.

It’s very kind and open-hearted, so I feel very close to that piece,” Berofsky said.

The Schumann piece is a bit shorter, around 17 to 18 minutes long. It is an unusual choice for violin, Berofsky said, and the violinist must be flexible with the pianist while playing.

“Schumann has led a very tormented life, and one can hear it in his music,” Gavrylyuk said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet first movement, followed by a very elegant and very tender kind of second movement, and the third movement is very dramatic and determined.”

The Schumann piece is an interesting companion to the Brahms, Berofsky said, because both pieces have thematic elements of love — and both men loved the same woman: Clara, Schumann’s wife. He described the piece as “crazed and kind of hyper” at times, but also as “a love theme.”

It’s very tender,” Berofsky said. “The emotions go from zero to 60, really quickly.
Aaron Berofsky

The Prokofiev piece is a bit longer than the others, clocking in around 25 minutes — standard timing of a sonata from the late Romantic-period, Berofsky said.

This piece is markedly different from the others in its overall tone.

“Prokofiev was a master in creating this kind of very sarcastic reflection of reality,” Gavrylyuk said. “This sonata is definitely not an exception to that. It’s a very ironic sort of piece.”

However, the piece fits well with the others in that it contains both the intimacy of Brahms and the storminess of Schumann.

Each piece has its own moments of repose and then moments of wildness,” Berofsky said.

This is the second year for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, which gives music faculty a chance to perform in a smaller setting, not just in concerts accompanied by an orchestra.

“Chamber music is just the most intimate and deep way of communicating through music,” Berofsky said. “It’s very personal. There’s no hiding. … (It’s) about communicating the deepest emotions and making people come together through music.”

Unlike solo recitals where the artist is alone with the audience, and concertos where the whole orchestra shares the music, chamber music is like a conversation between just a few musicians.

What happens often, without any discussion, is that you start finding a common language and start playing on the same radio wave,” Gavrylyuk said. “In fact, I find that the less discussion the better, because then you have to use your intuitive abilities to find each other and then merge together.”

Galician Bagpipe Player Pato, Quartet, to Open Chamber Series with Intercultural ‘Migrations’

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Cristina Pato Quartet

Cristina Pato has many different roles: New York University educator, composer, pianist and writer. But at Chautauqua Institution, she is best known for one role in particular: Galician bagpipe master.

Pato, who first visited Chautauqua in 2018 as part of Silkroad Ensemble, will perform with her quartet today and Tuesday with two programs based around intercultural conversations.

The Cristina Pato Quartet will perform “Migrations” at 4 p.m. Monday, June 24, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. Seats are first come and require a free ticket, which can be picked up starting at 7 a.m. today at the Welcome Center Ticket Office. The quartet will perform “Latina” at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Amphitheater.

Pato is one of the world’s most renowned  gaita players. In 1999, she became the first female gaita player to release a solo album, and she has continued developing her art as both a soloist and an ensemble member ever since.

While the gaita is a traditional instrument of her home region in Galicia, Spain, Pato’s performances incorporate elements from folk to jazz. Pato said her music begins with Galicia but incorporates elements from vastly different cultures.

“It will be a combination between Galician mediums and jazz mediums — a conversation of many different places,” Pato said. “Although I was trained in the Galician tradition, what I do onstage is now connected to my multi-cultural journey.”

That journey includes three other quartet members with their own voices, instruments and backgrounds: accordionist Julien Labro, bassist Edward Perez and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli.

The quartet members’ voices blend together in “Migrations” — an examination of how their individual journeys collide, Pato said.

“The four of us are coming from different backgrounds and different migratory journeys to meet in New York,” Pato said. “The program will travel the different ways of understanding the music of each of my quartet players.”

The members are trained in separate traditions, and Pato aims to bridge the unique musical languages. Together, she said, the whole music experience is greater than the sum of its parts.

“I am the one making the bridge between the other languages that I speak, from classical to folkloric music to their language,” Pato said. “And somehow we tried to create something that is unique, but is also connected to all the places that we come from.”

Last season, Pato performed both as part of the Silkroad Ensemble and as a soloist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. Silkroad, which was founded in 2000 by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, is a music group that promotes collaboration among diverse musicians. This year, she returns as part of her quartet to share a program of their own making — a narrowing-in of storytelling, from a full ensemble to just the four members of Pato’s quartet.

To Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, Pato exemplifies Silkroad’s message.

“This woman who plays Galician bagpipes, who plays piano, who is a jazz musician, who is a classical musician, who is lifting up and sharing music from her own culture — I thought that’s truly what Silkroad is about,” Moore said.

But, Moore added, Pato’s strong individual voice helped bring her back to Chautauqua for another two performances.

“She was such an engaging artist and person that I wanted to bring her back this year to focus on a program that she wanted to present,” Moore said.

Chautauqua Opera Company Celebrates 90th Anniversary With 2019 Season

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Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts

Amid the hustle of Chautauquans scurrying to get ready for the season, the Chautauqua Opera Company rolls out its program for the summer and its 90th anniversary.

With this celebration comes certain changes to the original structure of the season, bringing more opera productions as well as modern twists to classic stories.

The mainstage productions this season are a take on the Beaumarchais Trilogy, written by Pierre Beaumarchais in the mid-1700s. The play trilogy, consisting of The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro and The Guilty Mother, are the basis for the operas. Each story follows the Count Almaviva, Countess Almaviva, Figaro and Susanne as they confront love, loss and the social attitudes during the French Revolution. 

Chautauqua Opera will perform Vid Guerrerio’s ¡Figaro! (90210), an adaptation of The Marriage of Figaro, on June 28, 30, and July 7, 14 and 26. On July 5, 8 and 25, Chautauqua Opera will perform Gioachino Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The last opera in the trilogy, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, a take on Beaumarchais’s The Guilty Mother, will be performed on July 27.

¡Figaro! (90210) follows undocumented workers Figaro and Susanna in Beverly Hills.

The twist on the opera classic brings to the surface issues from 200 years ago that are still relevant today.

Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of performing and visual arts, said Chautauqua Opera is trying to demonstrate that opera isn’t simply an old art form with no room for modern change.

“What we are trying to focus on is relevant current work for all generations,” Moore said. “I think there is a prevalent feeling that opera is something that is steeped in tradition and something that is old.”

Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia is to be performed traditionally, while The Ghosts of Versailles is a more deconstructed adaptation of the original score. Moore said the mainstage operas are a form of entertainment for all types of Chautauqua audience members.

“While it is certainly steeped in tradition, it’s intergenerational, alive and current,” Moore said. “What I love about this season is that we have masterworks in all of these categories.”

Steve Osgood, general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, knew this 90th anniversary season needed to be special.

“Ninety is a pretty big number,” Osgood said. “It was important to market somehow, to do something unique and special.”

Osgood revamped the entire season from the structure of past summers.

Audiences now have the opportunity to see more opera during their stay, with more than one opera being offered every week.

This season, four guest artists and 24 young artists in Chautauqua Opera are set to perform the different productions every week.

The artists, who are young professionals, are on their way to finishing master’s programs in opera or have just finished their higher education.   

To make the rigorous performance schedule a reality, the four guest artists have a prolonged stay at the Institution.

During Week Five on July 25, 26 and 27, Chautauqua Opera will perform the whole Beaumarchais Trilogy in story order for their very own opera festival.

Audiences can see three operas of the Beaumarchais Trilogy in three consecutive days, something that has not been done before, ever, according to Osgood.

Osgood and Moore hope to attract people to Chautauqua specifically for opera.

“One of the big things that we are hoping opera will do for Chautauqua is that we can attract new people to Chautauqua that have come just for the opera,” Moore said.

The weekly Opera Invasions are a piece of the opera puzzle here on the grounds, giving opera a platform to engage with audiences on a personal level.

Each week, the young artists who choose to participate, get off the stage and travel the grounds where they perform different musical pieces for less than an hour, with little to no rehearsal.

The first of these Opera Invasions, which will take place Sunday, celebrates the 90th anniversary of Chautauqua Opera and Norton Hall, by immersing audiences in the vast repertoire performed since 1929.

From the Beaumarchais Trilogy to the Opera Invasions, Moore said this is a more diverse opera season with much more to offer Chautauquans.

“I think we have an opera season that will be a springboard for thought and discussion, and I think that is what Chautauqua is all about,” Moore said.

Chamber Music Guest Artist Series to close with Sharon Isbin, Colin Davin’s Latin-American guitar solos, duos

Isbin

It’s difficult to over-emphasize the impact that Sharon Isbin has had on the classical guitar. She has all of the accolades of a top-shelf musician: Grammy Awards, plenty of studio albums, appearances in major motion picture soundtracks and praise from luminaries like Martina Navratilova and Michelle Obama.

But Isbin’s legacy as an educator might go even further than her personal achievements. She’s director of The Juilliard School’s classical guitar program, which she founded in 1989, and since then has trained many of the world’s most successful guitarists.

For example, Isbin’s student Bokyung Byun won the nearby Buffalo Philharmonic’s JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition this past June, and Tengyue Zhang — another student of Isbin’s — was runner-up. Last year at another prestigious international guitar competition, Zhang won first prize, and Byun took second.

At 4 p.m. Mon., Aug. 20, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Isbin will give a concert of Latin-American music in the final Chamber Music Guest Artist Series of the season.

The performance requires a complimentary ticket, which can be obtained on a first-come basis at the Main Gate Welcome Center Ticket Office, which opens at 7 a.m. If available, tickets can also be obtained at the Visitors Center, which opens at 9:30 a.m. Seats are held until 15 minutes before the start of the performance.

Sharon Isbin and Colin Davin

This afternoon, Isbin will be joined by another former student, Colin Davin, a successful guitar soloist in his own right.

“It’s always a great source of pride for me when they launch and they end up establishing their own very prestigious careers,” Isbin said. “(Davin) is teaching on the faculty of the Cleveland Institute of Music and is a beautiful player, and it’s really fun for me to be able to do duets with him because we’ve worked together for so long in one context or another that there’s a real symbiosis.

The two met when Davin was just 15 years old at a master class in Buffalo, and then a year later as student and teacher at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Eventually, Davin would go on to earn his master’s degree studying with Isbin at Juilliard.

When Davin got to Juilliard, he was already playing professionally and entering guitar competitions, so he was already at a high level of performance. But while studying at Juilliard, Isbin’s extreme attention to detail pushed him to the next level, Davin said.

“I recall in particular a lesson we had on a slow movement from a Bach sonata,” Davin said. “Technically speaking, it was the easiest movement of the piece, but that was one of the hardest lessons I ever had because she was so zoomed-in on in the exact shaping of every little micro phrase and how it might fit into the larger phrase.”

The concert will feature solos and duos from composers such as Isaac Albéniz, Leo Brouwer, Enrique Granados and Francisco Tárrega. For Isbin, one of the highlights will be Brouwer’s “El decameron negro” (“The Black Decameron”), a work for solo guitar that she said has quickly taken a central place in the solo guitar repertoire since its composition in 1981.

“It’s inspired by love songs collected from Africa in the 19th century by a German anthropologist, and there are three different ballads in this set,” Isbin said. “One is about lovers fleeing through the ‘Valley of the Echoes,’ another about a warrior who is much beloved by his tribe but is then banished because he plays the harp —  a good metaphor for many things —  and then, about a maiden in love.”

Davin will join Isbin to perform Howard Shore’s “The Departed Tango,” written for the Martin Scorsese’s Oscar Award-winning movie, “The Departed.” The piece was written for Isbin, and she recorded it as a duo with herself for the movie.

“When Howard Shore and Scorsese began to discuss music for the film, they landed on the idea of the tango, which would be evocative of the dance of death between the Bostonian police officer and the Irish mafioso figures in the film,” Isbin said. “The tango, I think, fits in nicely with the South and Latin American flavor of this program.”

Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series finale to explore the history of Trinidad’s Freedom Fighters

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Caitlyn Kamminga’s bio begins as many do, with degrees from a prestigious music school. The next few items reveal her eclectic career as an international orchestral musician, with positions in the United States, Hong Kong, Wales and London — but the current item is probably the most surprising.

Caitlyn Kamminga

In 2009, Kamminga — a member of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra —  left her life as an orchestral player and moved to Trinidad to be on the faculty of the then-new Academy for the Performing Arts at The University of Trinidad and Tobago.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 18, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, Kamminga will share a slice of Trinidad with Chautauquans in a performance of “River of Freedom: The Journey of Black Freedom Fighters in the War of 1812,” a work with music by composer Adam Walters and words by Kamminga.

This concert will be the final installment of the Resident Artist Series, a chamber music concert series featuring CSO musicians and School of Music instructors.

When Kamminga and her family moved to Trinidad, they were only planning on staying for a few years. It was difficult to raise a family in the hard-working classical music scene in London, so they jumped at the opportunity for a change of pace — nine years later, they’re still there.

“It was just an opportunity to bring the family together,” Kamminga said. “We thought that even if we only had a couple of years there, it would be an amazing cultural experience. Then, we just started planting seeds, and those seeds started to grow, and now we’re just ensconced in the tapestry of Trinidad.”

As Kamminga became more entrenched in Trinidad, she also began to learn more about the culture and history of the island nation. In 2012, Kamminga and Walters came across the story of the Merikins, black Americans who fought for Britain in the War of 1812 in exchange for their freedom.

After the war, the British army gave some of those soldiers and their families land in southern Trinidad. “River of Freedom” is a interdisciplinary work of music and poetry that tells their story.

The “River of Freedom” story involves several different nations: the United States as the place where the black soldiers came from, Britain as the nation that offered them freedom, and Trinidad as the place where they would go. Because of that, Walters has included snippets of the national anthems of all those countries in the music, in addition to a variety of different hymns that one would hear in the spiritual baptist churches of Trinidad.

The land those soldiers received, according to Kamminga, was the heart of the Trinidadian jungle — not exactly habitable territory. But the soldiers persisted: their settlements survive, and are still named according to where each company settled (First Company Village, Second Company Village, et cetera). 

“River of Freedom” was premiered by Kamminga and others in those company villages.

“It was both scary and exciting,” Kamminga said, “because when you create a piece of art, then it goes out into the world and people get to have their own reaction to it. But we were delighted that the Merikin population loved it.”

Mia Gormandy

This performance of the piece will be its American premiere and will feature CSO musicians, Kamminga, her husband, Aidan Chamberlain (trombone), steelpan player Mia Gormandy, and Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory actor Elijah Jones as narrator.

The premiere also featured projections of artwork done for the project by Trinidadian artist Che Lovelace, but Kamminga said that this rendition of “River of Freedom” will not include those projections.

“I decided that this would be a great opportunity to make sure that the piece stands on its own as a narrated piece of music, and we know it does.”

This project is the next in a streak of interdisciplinary collaborations that Kamminga has been a part of. Some of that is due to her nature — Kamminga said she has always been interested in the intersections of the arts, reading Goethe alongside Beethoven and studying Manet while learning Debussy.

But another part of it, Kamminga said, is the culture on the island of Trinidad.

“Trinidad kind of reminds me of Paris in the Toulouse-Lautrec times, when you had all of these artists and musicians and actors and choreographers just in this little pool of artistic work. Because it’s so small, people do a lot of different things.”

-Caitlyn Kamminga, Co-creator, “River of Freedom”

Calidore Quartet to compare music of First, Second Viennese Schools in chamber music concert

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Monday, Aug. 13, will be the Calidore String Quartet’s first time performing at Chautauqua Institution, but violinist Ryan Meehan knows the grounds well. He came here with his family starting at age 14 to study with the famous violin teaching duo, Roland and Almita Vamos.

It was intense, Meehan said — the young violinist had a lesson every day, so he spent most of his time practicing while his sister was at Boys’ and Girls’ Club having fun.

That practice has paid off for Meehan. At 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 13, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, he and the other three members of the Calidore String Quartet — violinist Jeffrey Myers, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi — will give a concert of the music of Beethoven, Haydn and Webern.

Calidore’s program Aug. 13 is a comparison of the two Viennese schools, Meehan said. The First Viennese School generally refers to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, three composers who helped to establish the language of tonal music. The Second Viennese School, most notably represented by Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, were pioneers of atonal music in the early 20th century.

On this afternoon’s program, the First Viennese School will be represented by Hadyn’s String Quartet in G major, op. 54, No. 1, and Beethoven’s String Quartet in C major, op. 59, No. 3, “Hero.” The second will be portrayed by Webern’s Langsamer Satz (“Slow Movement”).

Langsamer Satz is unusual, according to Meehan, because it’s much longer than most of Webern’s works (the composer was known for incredibly short compositions), and also because it bears little resemblance to the atonal music that Webern is most known for. The piece, Meehan said, is actually more of a Romantic work, likely because the composer was young and in love at the time of its composition.

After Meehan’s time at Chautauqua, he attended the prestigious Colburn Conservatory of Music in Los Angeles, where he met Myers, Berry and Choi. The group formed to fulfill a class credit and is now a world-class touring string quartet.

There’s no one way for a young string quartet to become a professional ensemble, but many groups try to do so by entering chamber music competitions. Important ears will hear their work, and top prizes can include concert bookings and professional management.

The Calidore String Quartet went that route, and it was successful quite quickly. Within two years after its formation in 2010, the quartet won most of the major U.S. chamber music competitions, including the Fischoff, Coleman, Chesapeake and Yellow Springs competitions.

After that, the group had professional management and a regular concert schedule. It wasn’t an easy life, Meehan said — the group had to split concert fees five ways (four musicians and a manager), buy an extra seat for the cello on flights and cover New York City rent — but there wasn’t much point in continuing to do competitions.

That is, until the University of Michigan announced the M-Prize for May 2016. The $100,000 prize was the largest ever for a chamber music competition, and at 172 applicants, it promised to be the most competitive, too.

The quartet decided it was going to come out of “competition retirement” to take a shot at the competition, for obvious reason.

“Whether you know about the classical music world or not, something about a $100,000 prize seems to resonate with our culture,” Meehan said.

They won, and that victory took the musicians from a respectable chamber music career to a sky-high one. The group’s resume looks like a read-out of classical music’s top venues, and it continues to receive accolades — most recently, Calidore earned a 2018 Avery Fisher Career Grant.

That success has certainly come as a result of the M-Prize win, Meehan said, especially because they won the prize in its inaugural year. But while the prize helped the quartet’s career, it didn’t change its mindset, according to Meehan.

“Not much changed about our attitudes after we won the M-Prize,” he said. “It helped us get where we already wanted to go, just faster.”

In penultimate edition of Resident Artist Series chamber music concerts, Pearl Piano Quartet to play Mozart and Brahms

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  • Edward Arron

Saturday’s Chautauqua Chamber Music concert on Aug. 11 will be one of the few musical events of the week that doesn’t feature any current members of the Silkroad Ensemble — but there are still multiple connections.

First of all, cellist Edward Arron was one of Silkroad’s original members. Violinist Aaron Berofsky and violist Kathryn Votapek are both on faculty at the University of Michigan, where they are close friends with fellow faculty member and original Silkroad percussionist Joseph Gramley. The Pearl Piano Quartet’s ties with the events at Chautauqua this week are proof that the music world is a small one.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, the Pearl Piano Quartet — composed of Berofsky, Votapek, Arron, and pianist Jeewon Park — will perform Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E- at major, K. 493, and Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, op. 25.

Mozart’s Piano Quartet was originally meant to be the second of a set of three commissioned by a Viennese publisher.

“At that time, chamber music with piano was meant to be played by amateurs for their own pleasure,” Votapek said. “Supposedly, it wasn’t supposed to be written for concert performance, and the publisher wanted something he could put out there that people could buy and play for fun, and (the first piano quartet) was definitely too hard for that.”

Because the first one was so difficult, Mozart’s publisher ended up canceling the commission for the remaining two pieces. But Mozart composed a second piano quartet anyway, and that is the one that will be heard on Saturday’s concert.

According to Berofsky, this piano quartet is “delightful, charming, and pretty,” but also subversive in its structure. Unlike many heavily structured pieces of that time period, this work resembles a realistic conversation: sometimes themes or motifs are repeated for no apparent reason, and sometimes the piece goes off on tangents. These are all elements that improve the piece’s value, Berofsky said, but may have been edited out if the composer was writing under commission.

“Thank god he didn’t have an editor because there’s all of these things that you could have taken out, and it would have just been a pretty parlor piece,” Berofsky said. “But it’s much more intriguing this way because he was just so imaginative.”

Mozart would not go on to write a third quartet, but the other composer in Saturday’s program — Johannes Brahms — did complete three. For Votapek, they’re gems of the chamber music repertoire.

“Brahms’ three piano quartets, I think, are the most personal chamber music that he wrote, and also the most effective chamber music that he wrote,” Votapek said. “They’re more effective than his string quartets or anything else.”

The first piano quartet, she said, is so effective because it contains everything Brahms is known and loved for — the dark, brooding Brahms, the Romantic love song Brahms and the Hungarian gypsy music Brahms.

This concert will be the penultimate installment of Chautauqua Chamber Music’s Resident Artist Series. On Monday, Aug. 13, the Calidore String Quartet will complete the Guest Artist Series, and on Aug. 18, the Resident Artist Series will conclude with a program titled “River of Freedom: The Journey of Black Freedom Fighters in the War of 1812.”

Fry Street Quartet and School of Music faculty Kelly Markgraf to present afternoon of chamber music

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At 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, the Fry Street Quartet will perform the music of Haydn, Bartok and Barber. For Barber’s “Dover Beach,” the quartet will be joined by School of Music faculty member and baritone Kelly Markgraf.

The Fry Street Quartet — named after the location of its first rehearsal space — was founded in 1997 in Chicago. The group discovered some success fairly quickly; just a few years after forming, they were one of three American ensembles invited to compete at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.

Although the quartet did not place in that competition, it was a watershed moment, said Rebecca McFaul, founding member. After the process of preparing for and performing in a big chamber music competition, two of the quartet’s members decided that they wanted to pursue chamber music more seriously, but the other two decided that they did not.

After adding two new members, the Fry Street Quartet would go on to win several chamber music competitions and establish a presence as a string quartet to be reckoned with. But before that success, the group embarked on a three-year “Rural Residency” fellowship, which McFaul described as “Peace Corps for chamber music.”

The fellowship, which was sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and Chamber Music America, pairs chamber ensembles with rural areas that would like to have an ensemble in residence as part of their community. The Fry Street Quartet was placed in Hickory, North Carolina.

It was a formative experience for the group, McFaul said. In addition to allowing for more rehearsal and performance time, the fellowship gave the members a new perspective on their craft.

“I think sometimes a life in classical music can be pretty rarefled. Leaving that bubble and interacting with audiences that are not seeking you out — there’s a lot to be learned from that.”

-Rebecca McFaul, Founding Member, Fry Street Quartet 

The program the group is presenting today includes string quartets by two innovators in the genre — Haydn and Bartok — and Barber’s “Dover Beach,” written for string quartet and baritone.

“Honestly, we wanted to do (“Dover Beach”) because it was an excuse to collaborate with our friend, Kelly Markgraf,” McFaul said.

The quartet and Markgraf have collaborated before on the opera As One, which they will perform with Chautauqua Opera Company at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug 7, in Norton Hall. They’ll need to draw on their previous experience working together: Barber himself said that “Dover Beach” is a challenge for all involved.

“‘Dover Beach’ is a very difficult piece because nobody is boss, so to speak,” Barber wrote. “Not the singer or the string quartet. It’s chamber music.”

The pieces by Haydn and Bartok will be familiar for the quartet — in fall 2016, the group began a concert series in which it paired each of the six Bartok string quartets with one of the six Opus 76 string quartets by Haydn.

Saturday afternoon’s concert will feature Bartok’s String Quartet No. 5 and Haydn’s String Quartet in G Major, op. 76. The piece by Haydn, McFaul said, will be a “life-affirming” exhibition in both joy and humor.

Bartok’s quartet, written more than 100 years later, has its own kind of humor. Like much of the composer’s music, the piece uses musical scales that weren’t standard to the Western classical repertoire at the time of its composition, McFaul said. Bartok received a fair amount of criticism for not using the standard musical scales of the time.

As a sarcastic response, near the end of String Quartet No. 5, Bartok writes in several major scales — the most standard scale in Western music — with instructions to play them “very mechanically and with indifference,” McFaul said.

“It’s him saying, ‘You want your major scales? Well, here you go.’ It’s a fabulous moment,” McFaul said.

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