School of Music presents chamber music showcase


Historically, Chautauqua’s School of Music has never featured its students playing chamber music in the Amphitheater.

Until now.

“(The Amp) has always been reserved for big concerts, meaning big ensembles, orchestra, opera,” said Kathryn Votapek, the chair of chamber music at the School of Music. “The largest group that’s playing on Sunday is five people. It’s a whole different kind of music-making than the students do when they’re studying in solo repertoire or playing in large ensembles.”

At 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24, in the Amphitheater, the School of Music will present the Chamber Music Showcase. Artistic and Music Director at the School of Music, Timothy Muffit, will be joined by Marlena Malas, director of the Chautauqua Opera Conservatory, as well as Alexander Gavrylyuk, artist-in-residence at the School of Music Piano Program.

“(In chamber music) there’s no conductor, they’re self-directed,” Votapek said. “In the performance, the students have to be listening in a whole different way than when they’re just playing by themselves, with, say, a pianist following them.”

In a large ensemble, like an orchestra, a violinist might be part of a section of 12 other violinists playing the same part, Votapek said.

“When you’re playing chamber music, you have to be like a soloist,” she said. “Everybody’s part is unique and important and needs to be heard. At the same time, you have to be incredibly smart and know what everyone else is doing, how their parts fit in.”

It’s essential to, at the spur of the moment, be able to play a passage of music in a chamber music setting in a way different than you were expecting to, according to Votapek. 

“In a way, it’s a little like jazz,” she said. “Jazz musicians are always listening and responding and jumping off one another.”

Among the composers and works to be featured on Sunday’s program are Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds, Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G Minor, op. 57, and Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, op. 60.

“The students will be performing seven of the greatest pieces written for small chamber ensembles,” she said. “Since the students don’t have endless time to work on chamber music here at Chautauqua, we try to make sure that they’re playing stuff that’s really, really important in the repertoire.”

Votapek said that it’s her goal for the students performing on Sunday to perform “something that will speak to them.”

She wants the pieces performed to leave an impression on the students. 

“We want them to play something that they can hold onto as a great memory that they worked on this particular piece in this particular place,” she said. 

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The author Chris Clements

Chris Clements is reporting on literary arts during his third summer with The Chautauquan Daily. He has previously written previews for the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services and covered literary arts digitally in 2020. Chris is a second-year grad student at The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where he is a Master of Fine Arts candidate in creative writing, specializing in fiction. He’s passionate about all things related to literature, music and film, especially author David Foster Wallace, jazz singer Cecile McLorin Salvant and the films of Paul Thomas Anderson.