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Captivating chamber: Manhattan Chamber Players to perform intimate set in Amphitheater as 2021 season draws to a close

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NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER

Manhattan Chamber Players

As the 2021 season winds down, there’s still a chance to enjoy classical music as the Manhattan Chamber Players perform at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 24 in the Amphitheater. 

The chamber music performance will not only allow Chautauquans to enjoy classical music one more time this summer, but it will also share the talents of each individual musician in a more intimate setting.

The group was founded in 2015 by violist Luke Fleming. Fleming had been playing in a string quartet for six years, and found himself wanting an opportunity to branch out in chamber music and play with people that had a similar musical background as he did. From this came the creation of the Manhattan Chamber Players, a group of musicians who were able to come together and explore a vast chamber music repertoire.

Members of the Manhattan Chamber Players also come from successful careers as either soloists or members of other professional performing groups. There are also two composers who write music for the group. Each musician shares the common goal of coming together to create music and perform chamber music. 

The group has traveled to numerous places around the world to share the experience of chamber music. They perform their own series of chamber concerts in New York City but have also performed in New Orleans, Utah, and numerous music festivals and chamber music series. 

Each performance that the group puts on is unique and electric in its own way. This is due to the flexibility of their programming, with repertoire being performed from strings to winds and piano. 

Aside from performing around the world, the group also co-presents the Crescent City Chamber Music Festival, an outreach and mission-based event, each year in October. The festival was founded by Fleming, as well, with the goal of bringing chamber music to New Orleans. Since its founding in 2016, the festival has presented more than 20 free concerts in local venues, nursing homes, schools and homeless shelters. 

The Manhattan Chamber Players are also dedicated to educating young people about the importance and joys of playing an instrument — whether as a career or simply a hobby. The group showcases this by performing in local schools and after-school programs. 

Tonight’s program includes Beethoven’s String Trio in G Major, Op. 9, No. 1 and Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 2 in G Minor, Op. 45.

The Beethoven piece is a part of three four-movement string trios that he once considered his best compositions. These works were the stepping stones to Beethoven’s string quartets that would later become the leading genre in chamber music. 

Tonight’s trio in G Major is considered the most vigorous of the three. The high-energy piece starts off with a slow introduction that gives way to advanced harmonies, dazzling melodies and changing tones and moods with an unexpected D Minor key. The rich piece then ends on a fast-paced Presto movement.

The Fauré piece is a traditional piano quartet with inclusion of piano, violin, viola and cello. This four-movement piece begins with a unison string melody that is followed by the piano introducing the theme. 

The last movement that ends both the piece, and tonight’s concert, will leave a lasting impression with its passionate and intense string melody and piano triplets.

Guest critic: CSO Diversity Fellows, wind section deliver ‘chamber music of the highest order’

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ZACHARY LEWIS – GUEST CRITIC

Above left, 2021 Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Diversity Fellows open the show by performing Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum” Tuesday in the Amphitheater. Above right, Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts the winds section of the CSO during Mozart’s Wind Serenade in C minor Tuesday in the Amp. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

​​By no definition does the Amphitheater qualify as a chamber. Indeed, it’s the opposite of small.

Tuesday night, however, thanks to a few talented members of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, the grand old gathering place served quite admirably as a venue for chamber music.

Not just any chamber music, either. Chamber music of the highest order. No matter that the Amp has no walls and a soaring roof. Playing works by Mozart, Strauss and Jessie Montgomery, the artists convinced a crowd they were the king’s band and the Amp was an intimate drawing room at the royal palace.

For a listener accustomed to hearing the full CSO, the evening amounted to a real treat. The orchestra is unquestionably an impressive force, but here was a chance to hear just the woodwinds and horns in their individual and collective glory.

They did not disappoint. Mozart and Strauss present no small challenges, but the CSO players hurdled them all with remarkable grace and sophistication. Music Director Rossen Milanov played a vital role, but in the moment, the conductor all but disappeared into readings that were organic and profoundly collaborative.

Mozart’s Wind Serenade K. 388 was a model of classical virtue. The CSO nonet struck and maintained a perfect blend and balance, and the playing was never anything less than pristinely articulate.

But this wasn’t some dry technical display. This was an insightful, expressive and often refreshingly playful reading, the sort of genuinely animated performance Mozart or any composer of the era would have loved.

One has to think Strauss, too, would have been pleased. The account of his Suite Op. 4 offered by 13 members of the CSO Tuesday was right on the Straussian money, a performance that boasted all of what distinguished the Mozart along with even richer textures, dramatic pacing and bolder virtuosity.

Above left, 2021 Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Diversity Fellows open the show by performing Jessie Montgomery’s “Strum” Tuesday in the Amphitheater. Above right, Music Director Rossen Milanov conducts the winds section of the CSO during Mozart’s Wind Serenade in C minor Tuesday in the Amp. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Time and again, the artists under Milanov proved their Strauss bona fides. The fugal finale was a marvel of clarity and insight, but across the work, the group’s pacing was flexible, its dramatic sense keen. In its playing was real warmth and marvelous color, and while every member had flattering moments in the sun, the horns in particular came off in especially regal, golden light.

That would have been enough to send listeners home happy. The late addition of Montgomery’s “Strum,” however, made the program only slightly longer but significantly more rewarding.

Woodwinds, of course, can’t strum. No, this was a piece for strings, specifically the CSO’s 2021 Diversity Fellows: violinists Yan Izquierdo and Scott Jackson; violist Edna Pierce, cellist Maximiliano Oppeltz; and bassist Amy Nickler.

In this short but highly effective single movement clearly penned by a string player, the five artists took turns offering crisp pizzicato support while the others passed around bustling, folk-style melodies. Out of a few simple ideas, they made a lively, joyous occasion.

The performance was outstanding, the last measure or two a dapper retort, but the true star of this particular show was the composer. Montgomery is already quite accomplished, but if there’s any justice in the musical world, she’s still going places far beyond Chautauqua and the Amphitheater.

Zachary Lewis is a freelance journalist in Cleveland. He is the former classical music and dance critic of The Plain Dealer.

Students prepare capstone of chamber music as their season comes to crescendo

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NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER

Percussionists Liam McManus, left, and David Wang rehearse with pianists Narae Lee, left, and Kerry Waller for the Music School Festival Orchestra Chamber Players performance Thursday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. KRISTEN TRIPLETT / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

As the School of Music season slowly winds down, members from the Music School Festival Orchestra and the Piano Program will come together to put on one of their only chamber recitals this season. The students will perform an eclectic program of both contemporary and classical works at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, July 18 in the Amphitheater. 

Sunday’s recital highlights the talents of these musicians in a more intimate setting. Chamber music is something that MSFO students didn’t get to perform as much this season, but it’s something that is special to each musician. 

“Chamber music is its own music-making,” said Timothy Muffitt, music director and conductor. “It requires a lot more knowledge of the score and requires developing interpersonal skills. Chamber music is a really important part of being a musician.”

There will only be one piece on Sunday’s program that will be performed with a conductor. This provides both challenges and opportunities for the students. 

“Without a conductor, it gives us a lot of power and responsibility when putting it together,” said David Wang, percussionist. “It’s up to us to really know our own parts and each other’s parts. Becoming one unit is our end goal for chamber pieces. Playing off of each other is the most challenging, but also the most fun.”

This recital is also special as it gives the percussionists and wind musicians of the MSFO the chance to showcase their talents through a unique mix of pieces. 

“It’s a program that provides a really nice balance to the repertoire, as there’s more music by living conductors,” Muffitt said. “Each work is dramatically different from the one before.”

The recital will open with Igor Stravinsky’s Octet for Wind Instruments. It will be followed by Andy Akiho’s LIgNEouS 5 for Marimba and String Quartet, Eric Nathan’s “Rothko Musings,” Francis Poulenc’s Suite Française and finish off with Béla Bartók’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. 

The Stravinsky is the only piece being conducted, and will be done so under the baton of David Effron Conducting Fellow Joshua Hong. However, the musicians still make many of the decisions.

“We all have a common idea of what we want to do,” said Olivia Hamilton, clarinetist. “For chamber music we come up with our own ideas; the conductor doesn’t influence us completely. He’s just showing us so we remember during the performance.”

This piece features just winds and brass instruments, and allows each to shine through individually, while simultaneously blending together in a marriage of sound. 

“Stravinsky really showcases the extreme highs and the extreme lows of each instrument,” Hamilton said. “There’s instances where I’m playing the highest note and then the lowest note not too far from each other. I might be playing one measure with the flute and one with the trombonist and it creates such a different tone color which I really appreciate.” 

The Akiho piece is something the audience may have never heard before. Muffitt describes it as being “fabulously unique,” and said he was thrilled that the school can present it at Chautauqua. 

The piece heavily features the marimba and many unorthodox ways of producing music. 

“It’s very rhythmic and very percussion oriented,” Wang said. “There’s a lot of extended techniques from the marimba. Even the cello will have extended techniques like knocking on the instrument. It’s pretty unorthodox and nontraditional ways of playing instruments but that’s what makes it so unique.”

“Rothko Musings” is another contemporary piece that is unique sounding, as well. The composer, Eric Nathan, was inspired for this two-movement piece by Mark Rothko’s painting “White and Greens in Blue.” Nathan had always been inspired by Rothko’s paintings and would see them in various art museums. 

However, it was this painting in particular that captivated him. Nathan described this experience as a “little window opening something up within” that he then could “engage, foster and nurture my personal expression that came up.” 

This piece is also unique, as it only includes one bass trombone and two percussionists. 

“I felt as if the instruments that I chose reflected the sonic worlds of the painting and the textures that I was trying to convey,” Nathan said. 

The first movement of the piece represents what Nathan felt emotionally while he was engaging with the painting. 

“About the Rothko painting, I would also say that there is a sense of stillness, but also an expressive inner life and mystery to it as well. My first movement has a stillness to it but there’s an expressive voice that gradually emerges and glows from within the clouds of percussion chords,” Nathan said. “There’s a meditative serenity to it.”

The second movement then represents the paint itself on the canvas. Nathan wanted to capture the essence of what was occurring in the painting.

“The second movement is the paint on the canvas, zooming and interacting (with) how the world is like on the surface of the painting. You don’t see the colors  anymore, but an active interaction,” Nathan said, “finding more activity in the artwork, such as the brush strokes and the rectangular blocks Rothko is known for.”

The audience is able to experience this interaction through the music as Nathan describes this movement as “playful and dance-like.”  

“It’s almost a little raucous, with some jazzy quality, as well,” Nathan said. 

However, Nathan made a point to state that when listening to the piece, it’s up to the audience to interpret it how they want. 

“I think that the music tells its own musical story that the audience can find their own meaning in,” Nathan said. 

This piece was pivotal in Nathan’s career as a composer. It was his first piece that he composed as a master’s student at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. 

“It was a real departure for me, compositionally,” he said. “The nature of this instrumentation really forced me to rethink my language as a composer, and experiment in new ways. It was the beginning of a new trajectory as a composer.”

The Poulenc piece will feature oboes, bassoons, trumpets, trombones and one percussionist. 

Finishing with the Bartók Sonata is a bold choice, as this piece is known to be quite a difficult piece to conquer. 

“This is a rather iconic work,” Muffitt said. “It takes some really gifted musicians to pull it off, and we’re thrilled that we had people that could step up to the plate.”

The students are also excited to take on this challenge. 

“I know that this piece is very difficult but it really attracts me at the same time,” said pianist Narae Lee. “This piece has a lot of tempo and rhythm changes. This is a very unique combination with the pianos and percussionists, and is a very good opportunity for us students.”

This piece showcases these talented individuals and gives them an opportunity to perform a well-known piece together at the end of their season. 

“In a difficult year for chamber music, with very limited access to rehearsal space, we are delighted that two of our pianists will have the opportunity to play such an important cornerstone of 20th-century chamber music with percussionists from the MSFO,” said Nikki Melville, Piano Program co-chair. 

Since this is one of the last performances the School of Music will present, the students are excited to show how much they have grown and how strong their bonds are. 

“It’s been a spectacular experience. Even when we had performances it was for an empty crowd,” Wang said. “Seeing a big crowd out there supporting us makes each performance more meaningful. I’m especially looking forward to Sunday’s performance because it’s a lot of performing for us percussionists. I’m hoping to have a good crowd out there.” 

ChamberFest Cleveland, cellist Sterling Elliott to play Amphitheater

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NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

Sterling Elliott was born into music. While he was in the womb, his mother had a cello waiting for him. She wanted to have a quartet, so his two older siblings held a violin by the time they were 3, and she decided that Elliott, the youngest, would have the cello.

But Elliott didn’t want to play the cello. He wanted to play the violin like his siblings. Within a week of picking the violin, Elliott managed to accidentally break the neck off of the instrument. So he reconsidered the cello.

“What initially got me going was what my mom told me, that cellos made more money,” Elliott said. “So that really got little me rolling with it.” 

From there, his passion and career sprouted. At 7, Elliott became the first-place Junior Division winner of the Peninsula Youth Orchestra Concerto Competition and has since soloed with the New York Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Cleveland Symphony Orchestra, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra and many others. 

Now, a little over a month after his 22nd birthday and graduating from The Juilliard School, Elliott has been named a “Rising Star” of ChamberFest Cleveland, a classical music festival that for three weeks every summer brings world-class chamber music to Cleveland. 

At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday June 29 in the Amphitheater, Elliott and ChamberFest Cleveland will perform a lively set incorporating Schubert, Dvořák, Brahms and the Beatles.

Music has the power to give people faith and hope. It can cheer people up and completely change their mood.”

Sterling Elliott, Cellist, ChamberFest Cleveland

Elliott can’t wait to see the audience’s reaction to their performance. He said the pieces will be an eclectic mix and that the performers will be “making grooves and making vibes.”

“It’s magic,” Elliott said. “They’re some of the funnest pieces I’ve ever played. We’re having a blast. We can’t stop laughing over playing these pieces. And I just can’t wait to see how that translates across the stage.” 

Playing with new people is something Elliott enjoys immensely.

“I guess feeding off of their amazing energy and personality with who they are specifically, but also in musicianship, as well, is really just about something I could do all day,” Elliott said.

He has always loved playing music with friends and grew up playing alongside his family. Elliott said that despite her aspirations for a family quartet, his mother never intended for her children to be professional musicians. She was introduced to music in middle school, and it became an escape for her. His mother wanted Elliott and her other children to enjoy music as much as she did.

Now, Elliott listens to a lot of rap and rhythm and blues. One of his favorite artists is Foreign Exchange, a hip-hop duo that performs everything from rap to slow acoustics. 

“I was playing a playlist for someone,” Elliott said, “and an hour later, he was like, ‘This is all one person?’ I was like, ‘Yeah.’ ”

As Elliott recently posted on Instagram, “Music has the power to give people faith and hope. It can cheer people up and completely change their mood.”

Yet, music is often taken for granted. Elliott said that for him, music is as essential as breathing or eating.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to just be when we’re turning on a song like on an iPhone,” Elliott said. “It can just be if we’re just sitting on a beach, listening to waves, sitting in the park or any atmospheric noise.”

Violinist Joshua Bell and opera singer Larisa Martinez to perform ‘intimate home repertoire’ in Week Eight’s Cocktails, Concerts and Conversations

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Joshua Bell is usually rushing. 

With a career spanning more than 30 years as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, conductor and director, Bell is one of the most celebrated violinists of his era. And it shows in his annual schedule, performing in more than 150 concerts a year.

“I love the adrenaline, and I do it joyously,” Bell said. “But (the COVID-19 pandemic) has given me a new sense of time and a new chance for reflection. I think that affects the music-making in positive ways, and allows me to explore repertoire that has been on my bucket list. I believe we will come out of this with a new sense of inspiration.” 

Instead of Carnegie Hall or even the Amphitheater stage, where Bell performed with trumpet player Chris Botti in 2016, and as a soloist with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra in 2018, Bell and his wife, Larisa Martínez, will record their virtual performance from their Westchester country home, which fortunately includes a living room concert hall. 

“We have always thought it would be the perfect place to have home concerts for friends and family,” he said. “It’s a house salon in the old-fashioned style — it’s a very intimate setting.” 

Bell and Martínez will perform at 5 p.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 21 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. A Sony Classical artist, Bell has recorded more than 40 albums, garnering Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone, and Opus Klassik awards. Named the music director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in 2011, he is the only person to hold this post since Sir Neville Marriner formed the orchestra in 1958. Martínez is an artistic resident of Turnaround Arts, led by the Presidential Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. For the last two years, she has toured with Andrea Bocelli, debuting at Madison Square Garden and throughout North America, South America and Europe. 

The “intimate program” begins with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Ah, ritorna età dell’oro.” Bell said Mendelssohn is one of his favorite composers, and this 1834 aria is “beautiful, yet not often played.”

“Larisa and I had plans for next summer to do a whole tour together, but when we started exploring violin and voice repertoire, we found there is not a lot written natively for that pairing, so we have had to rely on arrangements when putting this together,” Bell said. 

Following Mendelssohn is Fritz Kreisler’s “Liebesfreud” and Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” According to Bell, “Ave Maria” is particularly fitting for this concert, given that it’s music “meant for the home space.”

“The song was meant for small spaces, as in it wasn’t written originally as the big, bold concert piece we know it as today,” Bell said. “Like most of the songs Schubert wrote, it wasn’t published during his lifetime because it was created for the soirées in his home.”

Next is Georges Bizet’s “Carmen Fantasy,” Op. 25, Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Bachianas Brasileiras,” No. 5, and a West Side Story Medley, arranged by William David Brohn and Charles Czarnecki. Bell said it highlights the “best pieces from the musical.” 

West Side Story is one of the greatest American pieces of the 20th century,” he said. “It’s a masterpiece, something everyone knows so well. Larisa is from Puerto Rico, and I think of her as just the perfect Maria. I guess that means I play Tony, in a way, on the violin.”

To close out the evening, Bell and Martínez chose an encore: Manuel Ponce’s “Estrellita.”

“‘Estrellita’ is Ponce’s most famous melody, and an iconic one at that,” Bell said. “I have played it on the violin many times, but we both love this song so much, we came up with an arrangement where we hear the melodies from both of us. There is not even a piano, it’s just me and the voice. That’s as intimate as we can get.”  

This program is made possible by Bruce W. and Sarah Hagen McWilliams.

Opening Chamber Music Resident Artist Series to explore music from the “other Europe”

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Zeger

For the first in this year’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, “Music from the Other Europe,” Brian Zeger’s piano is getting political. Through his Eastern European programming, Zeger wants to redefine what belongs on the concert stage, and he’s well aware his definition is broader than most. 

“Anything with good craft and good passion belongs on the stage,” Zeger said. “I say ‘enough’ with the qualifications.” 

The performance will feature Zeger, pianist and guest voice faculty, alongside two School of Music faculty: violin instructor Nurit Pacht and cello faculty Tobias Werner at 4 p.m. EDT Monday, July 13, on CHQ Assembly’s Video Platform.

The “unique and uncommon” pieces from Eastern Europe include Antonín Dvořák’s “Silent Woods,” Ernest Bloch’s “Simchas Torah (Rejoicing)” and “Nigun,” Leoš Janáček’s “Pohadka (Fairy Tale)” and Béla Bartók’s “First Rhapsody.”

“When a lot of people think of European classical music, they think of Germany, Austria, Italy and France, but just a couple hundred miles east of there are some wonderful musical cultures,” Zeger said. 

Austria is the “go-to influence” in Eastern European music because the Austrians were the political power of the Habsburg Empire, Zeger said. Amidst the Austrians, however, were communities of Czechs, Hungarians, Romanians, and Jews, Zeger said, from which he drew inspiration while building the program.

“When you take music out of the village and put it on the concert stage, it’s a kind of political statement — it’s an elevation of something which we might take for granted by thinking it doesn’t carry the same formal weight,” he said.

Dvořák was a Czech composer, one of the first to achieve worldwide recognition. He frequently employed the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia in his work. His “Silent Woods,” is the fifth part of the cycle for piano four-hands, “Ze Šumavy,” meaning “from the Bohemian forest.” The work was also transcribed by the composer for cello and piano, which Zeger called a “perfect fit” for him and Werner. 

“It’s a beautiful lyrical piece that really evokes the Czech landscape Dvořák loved so much,” Zeger said. “It’s a nature piece, but it’s also about love of country and love of homeland. You can feel his passion in the tone.”

Both of Bloch’s pieces come from his three-movement suite “Baal Shem: Three Pictures of Chassidic Life,” for violin and piano, and is named after the 18th-century founder of the Hasidic Movement, Rabbi Israel ben Elieze, also known as the Baal Shem Tov. 

Pacht described “Simchas Torah” as a joyful, celebratory piece that sounds like a dance, where “Nigun” is more expressive and emotional. 

“They both have that folk feel, but they are so very different,” she said. “There is a heartfelt, sincere earthiness about the music.” 

Janáček’s “Pohadka” is a swift, three-movement piece that Werner considers a “musical short story.”

“The characters, tempo, and moods change very quickly,” Werner said. “It feels like storytelling because Janáček is so imaginative and colorful. I would call his music instantly recognizable — it sounds like nothing else.”

The concert will finish off with Bartók’s “First Rhapsody,” the first of two virtuoso works for violin and piano. Zeger said the piece has a “keen ensemble sense” that required substantial rehearsal. 

“This is a real masterpiece,” Zeger said. “In 10 minutes, he manages to compress many different styles of (Romani) violin playing. He was transcribing what he heard … violinists play. It was a real joy to put this together with Nurit.” 

“First Rhapsody” is based on Hungarian folk music, which intrigued Bartók both as a composer and as an academic researcher. The rhapsody is full of hints of folk fiddling, improvisatory-sounding variations in the melodies and multiple stops of the sort. 

Pacht said while the style is noticeably different, Bartók never set out to “reconstruct” Jewish music. 

“He was interested in portraying the feeling of ecstasy that he was so familiar with in his exposure to Jewish music as a Jew,” Pacht said. “It’s not like he came from a studio place of trying to develop melodies that are authentic. For him, it was emotional.” 

Zeger, Pacht and Werner played together once before during the 2019 Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. Werner said it was comforting to be joined by old friends for a performance that is “anything but ordinary.” 

“With some people, you just don’t worry anymore,” Werner said. “When the three of us played together, we immediately trusted each other, which is such an important part of chamber music. With trust, you know that wherever a piece of music takes you, it will be something special.”

This series is made possible by Bruce W. and Sarah Hagen McWilliams.

ChamberFest Cleveland to feature Granados, Mendelssohn in piano trio

Diana Cohen

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Cohen, Rabinovich and An

Enrique Granados was terrified of drowning, but his desire to perform led him to the sea.

His 1911 masterpiece, Goyescas, is a piano suite inspired by the paintings of Francisco Goya. Five years later, it was adapted into an opera that received its premiere in New York City. Originally from Spain, Granados embarked on his first-ever ocean voyage to play in America. 

After conquering his American debut, Granados set sail for France. Somewhere along the English Channel, his ship was hit by a German submarine. He and his wife both drowned. 

While Granados might be best known for the irony of his death, Diana Cohen, violinist and founder and co-artistic director of ChamberFest Cleveland, is more focused on what the composer left behind: his “beautiful, unfinished and rarely played Violin Sonata.”

Cohen and her husband Roman Rabinovich, a pianist, will bring the sonata to CHQ Assembly’s Video Platform at 4 p.m. EDT Monday, July 6. Joining them for a second piece is cellist Dongkyun An.

“(Granados’) sonata is like a short story, because you get a huge range of emotion and go from one to another very quickly through one movement,” Cohen said. “You feel like you get to have it all with this piece. Roman and I don’t feel it gets enough recognition for that.”

ChamberFest Cleveland was launched in 2012 by Cohen and her father, Cleveland Orchestra principal clarinet Franklin Cohen. It was intended to create thematic programming for unique chamber music — a performance style that features a small group of musicians with individual roles. 

However, Cohen said the virtual component created space for a “new goal.”

“All of a sudden, we had to take into account what pieces would be easier for someone to take in over the internet,” Cohen said. “That’s harder than it sounds, but it also creates an opportunity to include pieces you might not have otherwise.”

To conclude, An will join Cohen and Rabinovich for Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor, Op. 66, which was composed in 1845. The work consists of four movements scored for a standard piano trio consisting of violin, cello and piano.

The opening movement is cast in a traditional sonata form, with the first theme featuring a foreboding “dark and stormy” emotional tone, Cohen said, indicative of Mendelssohn’s harmonic style.

In the way the piece is orchestrated, Cohen said she believes Mendelssohn wanted the trio to “play the piece like an organ.” 

“It is so lush and passionate and dramatic,” Cohen said. “The intensity of the opening meets a much softer end, which takes you to various places as a listener. Suddenly, you hear a soft but very famous church hymn that becomes more and more grand throughout. This is one instance in chamber music where I really feel like I am playing in an orchestra.”  

For those reasons, Cohen said the piece is an “audience favorite.” 

“People always enjoy hearing the passion in this one, so it felt appropriate to give them something we know they will appreciate as much as we do,” she said.

The trio had to re-record the program three times, a lofty feat as Mendelssohn’s piece clocks in at 30 minutes long on average. Along with a re-do caused by a bow mishap, Cohen said she was met with an unfamiliar struggle. 

“In our previous lives, we had performances and then we had recording sessions — now, they are constantly combined,” she said. “Recording sessions notoriously make people uptight and it takes a certain mindset to perform when you are recording. Many of us get bent out of shape about being perfect because we spend our lives listening to records that have been edited over and over again.”

It’s “all worth it in the end,” according to Jacqueline Taylor, Cleveland ChamberFest’s co-executive director.

“The beauty of it is that the music is what actually gets us to try to adapt,” Taylor said. “If it weren’t for Mendelssohn, we would have no reason to put all of this effort in. It is the end result of hearing a beautiful piece come together that makes us want to figure out how to bring it to life.”

This program is made possible by Jeff and Norma Glazer.

Cristina Pato and Mazz Swift to bring the invisible to light in season’s first Chamber, Concert and Conversation

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Swift and Pato

In each of the past two seasons, Chautauquans have seen a performance from Cristina Pato, with her signature green hair and bagpipes in hand. But Monday’s Chautauqua performance is designed to make one thing very clear: Those are only two surface-level lines in her story. It’s what can’t be seen from the stage that makes her who she is.  

Pato, a gaita player, pianist and composer, will be joined by Mazz Swift, violinist and freestyle composition artist, to perform an improvisation of their original project “Invisible(s)” at 4 p.m. EDT Monday, June 29, on CHQ Assembly’s Video Platform. The performance will open the new weekly Chamber, Concert and Conversation series. 

In 1999, Pato became the first female gaita, or bagpipe, player to release a solo album and has since become world-renowned for her unique sound. Pato said she realizes Chautauquans have come to know her as the “one who brings the bagpipes,” but for this digital performance, she will be seated at her living room piano. 

“Everything about this performance is new, but even more than it’s new, this performance is exciting,” Pato said.

Swift is best known for her combination of composition and improvisation called MazzMuse, but she is also a singer, arranger and Juilliard-trained violinist who has performed and recorded with artists including Whitney Houston, Nicole Mitchell’s Mandorla Awakening and The Silkroad Ensemble, where she met Pato in 2018. 

Shortly after meeting, Pato and Swift realized they were individually working on a collective goal: “Find what is invisible and allow it to be seen,” Pato said.

“When I met Mazz, she had just shared one of the pieces from her 16 Hits or Misses collection with me and when I heard it, it felt like I met Mazz, then I met her music and then I met the stories she carries,” Pato said. “The responsibility that she takes with her role as an artist is something I fell in love with.”

“16 Hits or Misses,” one of six pieces in the “Invisible(s)” program, is a collection created to recognize victims of police brutality and racism. It is an extension of “Invisible,” a piece Swift composed in 2013 to honor the life of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed, Black 17-year-old who was fatally shot near his Florida home by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

“I remember thinking I had to do something because George Zimmerman had just been acquitted and everyone was angry, but I was scared it was just going to be a big blitz on Facebook and then it would just go away,” Swift said. “I started writing music so I could get up in front of people, for as long as they would allow me to, and say these people’s names and tell their stories so they would not be forgotten.” 

“Invisible(s)” includes personal pieces by both artists, such as Pato’s “My Lethe Story: The River of Forgetfulness,” which, to Pato, questions the role of human memory and collective identity. She composed “My Lethe Story” to process her mother’s struggle with dementia.

“Through this music, people are now seeing these invisible parts of me and my story for the first time,” Pato said. “What is visible for me, may be completely invisible for another person just because they are not part of the society I belong to. It doesn’t make you worse or better, it just makes you unaware. The realities Mazz described were invisible to me and it opened my eyes. I wanted to know what would happen if we kept asking people to open up their invisible worlds.” 

With themes ranging from immigration to prison reform, the duo will perform a total of five selections. Swift and Pato decided to surprise each other with improvisations of each.

“This will certainly give us plenty to talk about afterwards,” Pato said. 

Both artists will perform Dayna Lyn’s “Same Word Different Smile,” Octavio Vázquez’s “Meus Benqueridos Irmáns,” and Michi Wiancko’s “Plainsong for Jojo.” Swift will also perform Alisa Rose’s “You Can Fly.” Pato commissioned all four composers to write personalized pieces for “Invisible(s).” 

Lastly, Pato will also perform Swift’s 2014 piece, “Life Afloat,” which Swift described as her “ode to the human spirit and how unexpected and powerful it is.” 

Swift and Pato’s pre-recorded concert is the first of the 2020 season’s Chamber, Concert and Conversation series, the virtual adaptation of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. 

“There are some Easter eggs in there, so to speak,” Swift said. “It takes way more energy and time to make these things happen than you would think. None of us are tech savvy — I will just leave it at that.” 

The performances on CHQ Assembly’s Video Platform will last approximately 40 minutes and will be followed by a 20 minute Q-and-A session hosted by Deborah Sunya Moore, vice president of Performing and Visual Arts, and Timothy Muffitt, music director of the Music School Festival Orchestra.

Pato said her portions have their fair share of “Easter eggs” as well, but she, like Swift, is grateful for the opportunity to share “Invisible(s)” with anyone who will listen, regardless of how they tune in.

“We are not trying to change the world with this project,” Pato said. “We are just engaging in a conversation and trying to learn a little bit more about something another person is passionate about that we are not yet passionate about.”

This program is made possible by Bruce W. and Sarah Hagen McWilliams.

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

Kanae_Matsumoto

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.”
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