Chamber Music

With ensemble, legendary Latin jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera brings world music to Amp

082123 Paquito D’Rivera

Sara Toth

Throughout his career, Cuban-American saxophonist, clarinetist and band leader Paquito D’Rivera has performed on stages large and small. With a backing band of Peruvian bassist Oscar Stagnaro, Argentinean trumpeter Diego Urcola, American drummer Mark Walker, and pianist Alex Brown, together known as the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet, he and his jazz ensemble is as at home in the intimacy of a chamber recital as they are in grand concert halls.

Which is exactly why the final Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series performance isn’t happening in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, but at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater instead.

“By programming this concert in the Amphitheater rather than in Lenna, we hope to connect with a wider audience — to embrace an expansive and modern definition of chamber music and perhaps to offer a gateway to chamber music for people who haven’t experienced this series before,” said Laura Savia, vice president of performing and visual arts. 

When programming Week Nine and its broader theme dedicated to “The Global South,” Savia said she and Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer, “leapt at the chance” to bring D’Rivera and his quintet to the grounds.

“His music and his presence as a performer are infectious. It’s hard to think of a woodwind player with greater jazz chops, and his repertoire ranges from music with Caribbean influences to innovative arrangements of Mozart,” Savia said.

D’Rivera is the winner of a combined 11 Grammy and Latin Grammy Awards, celebrated as both an instrumentalist and a composer. His quintet took home the Latin Grammy Award for Best Latin Jazz Album for Live at the Blue Note in 2001. 

D’Rivera, who was born in Havana and introduced to the worlds of classical music and jazz by his father — himself a classical saxophonist — has been performing for more than 50 years. With more than 30 solo albums to his name, he is the first and only artist to win Latin Grammy Awards in both the classical and Latin Jazz categories. A child prodigy on the clarinet, he made his debut with Cuba’s National Theater Orchestra at the age of 10; by the time he was 17, he was a featured soloist in the Cuban National Symphony. 

Over the years, D’Rivera has become a “living legend,” Savia said — quite literally, as he was honored in 2007 with the Living Jazz Legend Award from the Kennedy Center and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation Series for Artistic Excellence — and “a world-class musician who has been a force in Latin music since the 1970s.” In that time, he’s worked with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Gloria Estefan and Yo-Yo Ma, and in 2005 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President George W. Bush.

“He seems to have an insatiable appetite for musical exploration and collaboration – which makes him a perfect match for Chautauqua,” Savia said.

D’Rivera has said it similarly — “I always want to learn more,” told The San Diego Tribune in 2016. “And I like to play with people of different nationalities who understand that music is music. … At the heart of my music, always, is improvisation.”

Fredonia Jazz Faculty Collective to present original compositions, arrangements

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Fredonia Jazz Faculty Collective

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

For the final performance of this season’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, the Fredonia Jazz Faculty Collective will share original and versatile repertoire. 

“All four of us bring in tunes that we want to perform, (including) arrangements and original compositions,” said bassist Kieran Hanlon. “It’s really a group (effort); it’s not like it’s one person’s band. It is really cool to approach the music that way.” 

The Fredonia Jazz Faculty Collective will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. 

Hanlon is in his third year with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. He and his bandmates — Elliot Scozzaro on saxophone, Nick Weiser on piano and John Bacon on drumset — are all instructors at SUNY Fredonia. Their ensemble has been performing together for over six years.

“Our quartet has a ton of professional gigging experience,” Hanlon said. “The significance of that in the university setting is that … we get to bring these real-world experiences to our students.”

Weiser often considers jazz as “social music,” according to Hanlon. He added the artform is very much a “human experience” that relies on a “deep element of trust.”

“We are very comfortable taking musical risks and knowing that our colleagues are going to have our backs,” Hanlon said. “This music has a life of its own due to the amount of improvisation that’s in it.”

The program for Saturday will include a mix of arrangements and original works. Each member of the ensemble will choose two works to share, totaling eight pieces. 

Some of the works for Saturday’s performance include Hanlon’s “Smile E;” Alan Menken’s “Colors of the Wind,” arranged by Hanlon; Maria Schneider’s “Walking by Flashlight,” translated by Weiser; Cole Porter’s “Use Your Imagination,” translated by Weiser; and Bacon’s “Dedication Samba” and “Blue Heron.”

With these works, Hanlon plans to present “a diversity of styles, tempos, feelings and even messages from tune to tune.”

“Smile E” is a piece Hanlon wrote right after his daughter, Eva, was born. 

“We admittedly had a lot of trouble at the beginning (of her life),” Hanlon said. “She wasn’t sleeping, and she had colic. So when we could get her to smile, it was really great.”

Hanlon experimented with the piano to find “musical sounds that correspond with her name.” 

“(The composition) has a spacey, wandering (feeling), which I’m sure was how she felt having popped into the world for the first time,” he said. 

Porter’s “Use Your Imagination” is a traditional jazz piece that Hanlon believes sounds like “what most people think of when they think jazz music.”

Bacon’s “Dedication Samba” is dedicated to his father, and Hanlon said the work produces a “big Brazilian feeling.”

“Jazz music is probably one the widest palettes of styles and sounds,” Hanlon said. “With this show, there’s going to be (a blend) of traditional and modern jazz.”

Hanlon and the Fredonia Jazz Faculty Collective are looking forward to “bringing jazz music to Chautauqua.” 

For the last Resident Chamber Music Series performance of the sumer, Hanlon is excited to present a “very interesting contrast to the other programs that have happened this summer.”

Balourdet Quartet, Sadberry to blend winds, strings in chamber ‘serenade’ for Chautauqua

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Balourdet Quartet

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

Honoring Antoine Balourdet, chef extraordinaire at the Hotel St. Bernard and member of the Taos School of Music community, the Balourdet Quartet formed around a love of food, friendship and music. 

The quartet, formed in 2018 at Rice University, is joining forces with flutist Adam Sadberry to perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.

Justin DeFilippis, violinist for the Boston-based quartet, said the selection of music for the program is aimed to represent the best of the artists. 

Adam Sadberry

As a string quartet, DeFilippis said working with a flute presents some challenges. Usually string quartets will add a piano to the group as the sound “automatically lends itself to collaboration.” 

“Wind instruments tend to project very powerfully and the timbre of the instrument, the sound quality is very distinct from the string quartet,” DeFilippis said. “But that has actually resulted in some of the most beautiful pieces that were written involving string quartet.” 

In addition to DeFilippis, the quartet includes Angela Bae on violin, Benjamin Zannoni on viola, and Russell Houston on cello.

The Balourdet Quartet and Sadberry both won the Concert Artist Guild competition back in 2001.

Along with being an award-winning musician, Sadberry is also an educator at the University of Minnesota, having given residencies at several other universities. Currently, he is the principal flutist of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in Santa Cruz, California. 

Sadberry is a “masterful” flutist and “a joy to work with,” DeFilippis said. “I think it’s safe to say he’s probably enjoyed the collaboration, as well, because the results over the course of the year when we have gotten together here and there have been really special.”

The first half of the group’s program focuses on the instrumentals of the quartet, beginning with Hugo Wolf’s “Italian Serenade,” which partially inspired the group’s spring tour, themed around serenades, and serves as a “delightful little appetizer and showpiece for the string quartet,” DeFilippis said.

The quartet will continue with Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 4. Made up of four distinct movements, this piece was written specifically for violin and fitting of the amorous theme.

“The piece is an alternation between passion and a feeling of oneness with nature,” DeFilippis said. “We think of the slow movement of this piece as a serenade.”  

Mendelssohn was somewhat of a child prodigy, composing over 20 pieces before the age of 20. His String Quartet No. 4 showcases a style original to him, DeFilippis said. 

“(It) is a really spectacular work that is less often played than some of his other music, but is probably one of his great masterpieces,” DeFilippis said.

After the first half of the program, the quartet will introduce Sadberry. 

Together, the group will perform Heitor Villa-Lobos’ “Assobio a Jato” (or “The Jet Whistle”), a duet featuring Sadberry and cellist Houston. 

As an audience member for this piece, DeFilippis said it’s still “really fun” to be able to watch the two practice and perform. 

“The highlight is this imitation of a jet engine taking off at the end of the piece,” DeFilippis said. “But the rest of it is a really interesting blend of folk music (and) baroque music, and it’s really tuneful and fun for the audience.”

Wrapping up the performance is “Theme and Variations” by Amy Beach, who, similar to Mendelssohn, was also a child prodigy and virtuoso pianist. She was “very much ahead of her time” as a woman of the early 20th century, said DeFilippis.

For many years, Beach’s “Theme and Variations,” written in 1916, was overlooked and seemingly forgotten. With a revival of interest in one of the first prominent American female composers, Beach’s work has resurfaced. 

In her career, Beach wrote and composed more than 300 works. 

“Theme and Variations” draws inspiration from Native American folk music.

“The work is intensely lyrical. It’s kind of reflective and haunting on the whole,” DeFilippis said. “The series of variations go through beautiful melodies, kind of joyous dances and there’s a lot of alternation between playful music and contemplative music.” 

DeFilippis said their group is likely the one and only to be named after a chef instead of a musical artist or place. 

“We bonded over food and friendship, a passion for human connection, even before our passion for music was clearly set as a goal,” DeFilippis said. “And I think audiences react to that kind of rare closeness of our collaboration.”

Currently in residence at the New England Conservatory’s Professional String Quartet Program, the Balourdet Quartet has performed together all over the country and overseas, including 70 concerts since September last year.

“Some of the most fulfilling concerts this year, honestly, have been the shows in out-of-the-way small towns that might have never heard classical,” DeFilippis said. “Those can be some of the most fulfilling experiences to feel you impact people with what we do, which cannot fully be explained in words.”

Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble to share compelling compositions

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Robinson, Levy, Dinitz, Spitzer and Robbins

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

The Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble will soon present a light yet powerful program of musical repertoire for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series.

“For us and the audience, there’s been a lot going on during the past several years — lots of struggles and unusual challenges,” said Jeffrey Robinson, bassoonist for the Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble. “So I thought (we should) have a generally happy, easy-to-digest chamber music hour together.” 

The Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. 

The Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble is composed of members from the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s wind section, including Robinson on bassoon, Kathryn Levy on flute, Adam Dinitz on oboe, Daniel Spitzer on clarinet and Mark Robbins on horn.

Robinson has performed with the orchestra for 20 years, while this is Dinitz’s first season with the CSO. 

“The cool thing about this program is it’s anything from people that are in their first year, to people that are in their 30th (year with the CSO),” Robinson said. “So there’s a spread of experience up here.”

Saturday’s program includes Henry Purcell’s Fantasia on One Note, Paul Valjean’s Dance Suite, Damian Montano’s Trio, Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt and J.S. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue.

Purcell’s Fantasia on One Note is a very brief work — only lasting about two minutes. 

“The whole piece has a drone note as a ground melody,” Robinson said. “It’s beautiful.” 

Dance Suite was composed while Valjean was a student at the Eastman School of Music in 1955 and just 20 years old. 

“He didn’t write very much music, but this wind quintet is based on some of his experiences as a ballet dancer himself,” Robinson said. 

To break up the program of quintets, Montano’s Trio will only include oboe, clarinet and bassoon with Dinitz, Spitzer and Robinson, respectively. Robinson said the trio will add “textural variety” to the program.

“The Trio is written by a former student of mine, and he’s a composer and bassoonist in the Los Angeles area,” Robinson said. “This is a trio that I’ve performed once before, and it’s a really fun piece.” 

The Chautauqua Chamber Wind Ensemble will perform “very pleasant, fun (and) interesting” selections from Peer Gynt “in an arrangement that works really well for quintet,” Robinson said. 

The final work of the program was originally written for the organ, but Robinson “transcribed it a long time ago for wind quintet with English horn.” 

“(Peer Gynt) is a monumental, mammoth piece, but it’s only about eight minutes long,” Robinson said. 

With this program ranging from classical to contemporary works, Robinson believes it’s “historically important to keep as many eras in mind (as possible by) including pieces written between 1730 and 2015.” 

With garage band mentality, Westerlies set to perform all-brass chamber music

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The Westerlies

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

Before the Westerlies formed, the longtime friends who make up the quartet would pile in to a minivan owned by one of the trumpet player’s moms.

During the summers, the group would drive hundreds of miles playing house concerts, art galleries, coffee shops, or wherever anyone would take them. 

Since then, the Westerlies have produced 10 albums, founded a record label and toured nationally. 

The New York-based brass quartet will perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.

Forming out of friendships in Seattle, the musicians that now make up the Westerlies first began performing with their own groups, improvising and writing music while in high school. 

Riley Mulherkar, co-founder and trumpet player for the Westerlies,  said the aim and the sound of the group has evolved since then.

“We had dreams of making music with our friends,” she said. “But over the years, once we really tried to find our sound as a brass ensemble, it led to a lot of discovery within the language and the repertoire of chamber music and brass music. There’s been a lot of evolution for us as a group in terms of how we identify and what we try to tackle musically.” 

The Westerlies is comprised of Mulherkar and Chloe Rowlands on trumpet, and Andy Clausen and Willem de Koch on trombone. 

Mixing ideas from jazz, new classical and folk into a brass ensemble, the group’s repertoire is ever-expanding, Mulherkar said. Members of the Westerlies write their own music, as well as curate adaptations of their own arrangements.

“There are certainly challenges (being a brass ensemble) and we’re also always just very jealous of string quartets because they have so much incredible music in their canon going back hundreds of years,” Mulherkar said. “The brass canon is certainly a more recent canon.” 

For many concerts, Mulherkar said the group’s program is flexible and changes frequently. 

Although the group didn’t share what selections they’re bringing to Chautauqua, Mulherkar said they are sure to feature tunes from their most recent album released in March, which features new classical and contemporary classical composers. 

“There usually tends to be quite a variety in any given program, and we have a general idea of what we’re doing coming in,” Mulherkar said. “But sometimes five minutes before the show we’ll say, ‘Why don’t we throw in this thing,’ or, ‘Why don’t we try this?’ ”  

Brass ensembles are inherently different from string quartets. Trumpets and trombones look and sound different from a violin, viola or cello, she said, and string groups are stereotypically considered more classical and refined compared to the power and timbre of brass. 

Mulherkar said there still is something so exciting about presenting music as an all-brass group. 

“One thing we particularly love about brass music is subverting the expectations that people have around brass,” Mulherkar said. “I think folks usually will come into a concert expecting more of a fanfare sound or more of a majestic Olympic sound of brass. And our core sound is a very quiet sound and we love to bring people close to us and into the music.” 

In the nearly 12 years since the group’s beginning, Mulherkar said the community they’ve created and grown in is one of the best things to come out of forming the Westerlies. 

“I think for me, the most rewarding part actually doesn’t end up being the music itself as much as just the people you meet and the community you build through it all,” Mulherkar said. 

Duo Cortona to present poignant performance of voice, violin

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Duo Cortona

Inspired by Italy as a birthplace of great art, music and love, husband and wife duo Rachel Calloway and Ari Streisfield embody these three virtues through their musical ensemble, Duo Cortona.

Calloway and Streisfield were both independently accomplished musicians sharing their lives together. But it was time spent in Cortona, Italy, that spurred them to join musical forces with their instrumentation of voice and violin.

“When we were teaching for the first time at the Cortona Sessions for New Music, we were really inspired to begin performing together,” Calloway said. “That festival, that time together immersed in music, was the inspiration for our ensemble.”

Duo Cortona will perform as a part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. 

Calloway, a mezzo-soprano, is spending her first summer at Chautauqua as a faculty member of the Opera Conservatory. Calloway was previously a student of the program under Marlena Malas.

“To teach at a program that was so fundamental and integral to my own artistic development is really a 360-degree, full-circle moment for me,” Calloway said. “Marlena has been my voice teacher for over 20 years, and so much more than a voice teacher. … To be able to share that lineage … is a powerful and meaningful moment for me.”

Calloway and Streisfield’s collaboration through Duo Cortona has added “another dimension to our relationship” by “bring(ing) new music to life together,” Calloway said. She describes the professional partnership with her spouse as “really special” and “one of the greatest joys of our lives.”

Duo Cortona’s program for Saturday includes five works: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Selections from Along the Field,” Annika K. Socolofsky’s “It is what it is,” Ingrid Laubrock’s “Erica Hunt, poet (b. 1955): Selections from Koans,” Yu Kuwabara’s “Sonatina on the name of Bach (2021-22) and John Fitz Rogers’ “Asunder.”

“Selections from Along the Field” “will demonstrate some extended techniques which will be really interesting for the audience,” Calloway said. The multi-movement work by Williams will be interspersed “amongst the other new pieces that we’ve commissioned over the years.”

Duo Cortona often commissions new pieces to perform. Since the ensemble pairs “voice and violin, there is not a ton of repertoire for us,” Calloway said.

One of the commissioned works, sponsored by Jane Gross, Socolofsky’s “It is what it is.”

“Annika creates what she calls ‘feminist rager lullabies,’ ” Calloway said. “In other words, (she) takes the nursery rhyme tunes that we are used to from childhood and reflects on those words. As a queer composer, Annika has brought to light how so many of these little nursery rhymes have very constraining didactic and narrow-minded views of how a child should grow up in the world.”

Laubrock’s “Selections from Koans is a piece that features “a series of very, very short movements” that are like “little, teeny-weeny jewels (that are) very complex and diverse musically.” Calloway and Streisfield met Laubrock in Vermont, and Calloway considers her to be an “excellent composer and saxophonist.” 

Streisfield will also perform a solo piece by Kuwabara, a Japanese female composer. 

The final piece of the program, “Asunder,” is based on a collection of Sappho’s poetry and composed by a colleague of Calloway’s from the University of South Carolina School of Music. 

“I would say it’s a really diverse program in terms of how the violin and the voice are treated, the kinds of texts that are used, the timbres and so forth,” Calloway said.

She said she hopes by “sharing this new music with the Chautauqua community,” the audience will “think deeply about their own values and their own goals.” 

In particular, Calloway is delighted to share Duo Cortona’s repertoire with students of the Opera Conservatory. Returning to the program as an educator is “Incredibly powerful” for her, and she said she believes she would not be the person she is today without having those experiences.

“I hope our performance demonstrates what professional life and music can be some 20 years after my three summers at Chautauqua,” Calloway said. “Our performance will absolutely demonstrate excellence in the field of new music, … as well as a standard repertoire and standard singing and playing techniques.”

Borromeo String Quartet to hold ‘amazing conversation’ with Bartók, Beethoven

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Borromeo String Quartet

Sarah Russo 
Staff writer

To satiate listeners hungry for beautiful music, Borromeo String Quartet is ready with much more than a “small salad,” said first violinist Nicholas Kitchen.

“We’re definitely preparing for the audience a wonderfully, rich meal,” he said. “These are works that both of those composers wrote were kind of at the height of their powers.” 

Borromeo String Quartet is set to perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part if the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.

In addition to Kitchen, the quartet in residence at the New England Conservatory since 1992 includes: Kristopher Tong, violin; Melissa Reardon, viola; and Yeesun Kim, cello.  

Traditionally, first violin players are given the melody within an ensemble piece.

However, Kitchen said within chamber music for quartets, composers have the ability to “have fun with the role and change (it) constantly between four people.” 

“There’s a role that I play (in) which I need to often be on that cutting edge of a musical motion,” Kitchen said. “And then again, the composer has a lot of fun with what can be done in conversation with that initial idea.” 

Chamber music, as Kitchen describes it, is like an “active conversation between all four participants.” With the concert this afternoon, he said that will be evident in the selections they’ve chosen. 

“What’s kind of exciting is that in both cases, these are two completely different people from completely different times, and they come from different cultures,” Kitchen said, “… and each one kind of has reached a level of musical fluency where they can just really create this almost other world for the audience as they’re listening.” 

Borromeo Quartet’s concert begins with Béla Bartók’s String Quartet No. 5 in B Flat Major. Composed in 1934, this was Bartók’s penultimate quartet on commission from Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. This piece has five distinct movements using an “arch” form, a central scherzo with two slow movements, which are then bookended by energetic fast movements.

“It’s just (an) elaborate thing where we’re imitating each other just at almost unimaginable speed,” Kitchen said. “And then it also has these sections … which are just so peaceful and contemplative and kind of have this really haunting kind of beauty.” 

The quartet will conclude their program with Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 in E Flat Major. This piece is the first of Betthoven’s late quartets, six string quartets that comprise his final musical achievement. Even though the quartet was composed in 1825, Kitchen said the music is still relevant all these years later.

“There’s a profound peace, beauty and sense of meditation about the most important things that Beethoven really does that as well as any composer could ever expect to do,” Kitchen said. 

The first and last movements of Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 12 are drastically different, Kitchen said. Beethoven’s music is “powerful” and Kitchen hopes the audience will feel “stimulated” by listening to each movement of the piece. 

“They’re both like a rich tapestry,” Kitchen said, “the kind of feeling that one has as you’re interweaving all these things between the four instruments. It’s a gorgeous, rich piece even if you’re not queuing into all those details.” 

“(There is) a richness of textures and imagination in these multiple layers of conversation going on inside the music,” Kitchen said.  

Beethoven and Bartok are two historically significant and successful composers each with different backgrounds and musical styles. Despite their differences, Kitchen said the selections chosen from each composer are some of the best out there. 

“You can’t really write music that is greater than these two pieces, and yet they’re very different,” Kitchen said. “(The program) is celebrating that ability to have these kinds of human feelings that are so varied and coming from these two very different masters at two different places.” 

CSO Fellows to present diverse display of harmonic hues

CSO Fellows

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Fellows will share a mosaic of diverse, cross-cultural repertoire at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

The ensemble includes Gabriela Lara and Jesus Linarez on violin, Pedro Mendez and Camila Berg on viola, and Max Oppeltz on cello. 

The CSO Fellows is a group born from the Chautauqua Symphony Fellowship Program, started in 2018 and expanded this summer through a partnership with the Sphinx Organization. With a keen focus on inclusiveness and diversity, the program has expanded this year to 10 fellows.

“It’s a refresher for the orchestra when they have young people with different cultures from different places,” Mendez said. “There’s a door that is opened for more people to learn about Chautauqua. … So many people don’t know what Chautauqua is and how powerful it is.”

This season is Oppeltz’s third year as a fellow, and said he is excited to collaborate with his friends through chamber music.

“Having a little balance as musicians is the best thing,” Oppeltz said. “I love orchestra, but I need to have some chamber music thrown in there.”

Both Mendez and Oppeltz are from Venezuela, and Mendez noted how his first season as a fellow has allowed him to experience an “interchange of culture.”

This Saturday’s program includes Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s 5 Fantasiestücke, for string quartet, Op. 5 and Antonin Dvořák’s String Quintet No. 3 in E Flat Major, Op. 97. Coleridge-Taylor’s 5 Fantasiestücke will be performed by Lara, Linarez, Mendez and Oppeltz. Berg will join the CSO Fellows on stage for Dvořák’s String Quintet.

CSO Fellows want to present a program with an “underrepresented composer and a big name composer,” according to Mendez; Coleridge-Taylor and Dvořák fit the bill. Coleridge-Taylor came from a mixed racial background: his father was African and his mother was English. He was still a student in 1895 when he composed 5 Fantasiestücke, which translates to “fantasy pieces.”

“Every piece has a very different character,” Mendez said. “Out of the five movements, each of them has totally different emotions and different feelings with a lot of color and detail.”

Dvořák is one of Mendez’s favorite composers, and he believes his String Quintet is interesting because it was written during the summer the Czech composer spent in Spillville, Iowa.

“Dvořák is a cool composer because he influenced a lot of American composers, but he was also influenced by African American tunes and hymns in his own music,” Oppeltz said. “He’s part of this really cool loop of influence in American music. It’s always cool to program him and compare his sounds to the sounds of other composers because he’s so pivotal.”

Dvořák’s String Quintet invokes a sense of “longing,” according to Oppeltz.

“He wrote about missing home, but he did it with this new voice that he found (in America),” Oppeltz said. “He was missing home while embracing the sounds of the place where he was.” 

Mendez is excited to bring “energy and freshness” to the chamber music series as Venezuelan and Latinx fellows. 

“(We will) expose (the audience) to a different way that music is normally presented,” Oppeltz said. “… We’ll be having a lot of fun, and it’s going to be really obvious. I think that’s contagious.”

Gavrylyuk, CSO to perform works of ‘remarkable’ 20th-century Russian composers


As part of a society’s infrastructure, as explored by the Week Five theme, music is often considered a universal pillar — and a performance.

Tonight will open an opportunity to engage in discussion and analysis of Russian society through its music. 

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will perform alongside piano soloist Alexander Gavrylyuk at 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater; under the baton of Music Director and Principal Symphonic Conductor Rossen Milanov, the CSO will perform two pieces: Rachmaninoff’s “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini,” Op.43; and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 in D Minor, Op. 47. 

Milanov said he is looking forward to “sharing the stage with one of Chautauqua’s favorite musicians.”

Ukrainian-born Australian pianist Gavrylyuk is internationally recognized as one of the leading pianists of his generation for his electrifying and poetic performances. He currently serves as Artist-in-Residence at Chautauqua Institution and is artistic adviser of the School of Music’s Piano Program. Both pieces in tonight’s program feature prominent piano parts.

“Every time Alexander performs at the Amphitheater it is a major musical event,” Milanov said. “This year we will be performing one of the greatest and richest works in the 20th century repertoire: Rachmaninoff’s ‘Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini.’ ”

Many of Rachmaninoff’s works consist of solo violin features, but this piece includes a concertante work for solo piano and orchestra. The premiere in Baltimore by the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934, with Rachmaninoff as the piano soloist and Leopold Stokowski as conductor, was an immediate success and has since become a cornerstone of the repertoire. 

Following Rachmaninoff, the CSO will conclude with a piece by Dmitri Shostakovich, a composer with whom the CSO is very familiar, having performed Shostakovich’s Eighth Symphony last season and the Leningrad Symphony with the Music School Festival Orchestra in 2018. 

“In recent seasons, we have been exploring in Chautauqua some of (Shostakovich’s) most important and deeply emotional symphonies,” Milanov said. “This year we will perform his most popular one — No. 5.”

Shostakovich was composing during the 1930s, a time when the Soviet Union reeled under the destruction of Joseph Stalin. Stalin himself went to a performance of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, and soon after the state newspaper Pravda condemned the work for corrupting the Soviet spirit. Then, the opera disappeared; every publication and political organization in the country placed personal attacks on its composer. Living in fear, Shostakovich rejected his own Fourth Symphony while in rehearsal and decided to premiere Symphony No. 5 with the subtitle “A Soviet Artist’s Response to Just Criticism.” The work displayed lyricism, a heroic tone and inspiration from Russian literature. Other listeners hear a subtext of critical despair beneath the crowd-pleasing melodies. 

After tonight’s performance, there will be a short documentary movie explaining the compositional process as well as some of the important themes that Shostakovich reflects in his music, Milanov said.

Dublin Guitar Quartet to perform both classical, contemporary works in afternoon chamber recital

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Dublin Guitar Quartet

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

Most ensembles use many different instruments to create their music, but one group performing on the grounds this week only needs one: the guitar. 

A classical guitar quartet dedicated to presenting new music, Dublin Guitar Quartet will take the stage at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. 

The idea of forming a guitar-only quartet came to fruition among four friends attending the Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama. 

Brian Bolger, Pat Brunnock, Chien Buggle and Tomas O’Durcain make up the group all playing eight- and 11-string guitars. 

The quartet has dedicated their careers to performing contemporary pieces and have developed an original catalog of guitar arrangements. 

Founded in 2001, DGQ continues to be the only classical guitar ensemble of its kind. The Irish Times called them a “quartet with a difference.”

“We thought it would be cool to create a guitar quartet that performed contemporary classical music only,” Bolger said. “There are string quartets that do this … but not guitar quartet, strangely enough. We also wanted to hear what the music of our favorite living composers sounded like … Philip Glass, Steve Reich and the like.” 

This afternoon’s program will include DGQ’s transcriptions of music by Glass, Arvo Part, Marc Mellits, Bryce Dessner and Gyorgy Ligeti. 

Bolger said the ensemble tends to choose a variety of music that they enjoy playing and that showcases the versatility of the guitar, instead of creating a common theme. 

“We have a pure-music approach,” he said. “We play music by composers we like. … Most of these composers are from the minimalistic-influenced world as opposed to the more experimental avant-garde side of contemporary music. … That’s just our personal preference as listeners. And most of the music we perform are our own transcriptions because there’s very little out there.”

Bolger said there are very few pieces created specifically for guitar-only classical ensembles. Because of this, DGQ commissions many of their own pieces. Inspired by their favorite composers, DGQ also transcribes and develops the music they perform, including works by Ligeti, Igor Stravinsky and Michael Nyman. 

Bolger said culturally, the guitar is an “interesting instrument” that has had the “widest impact.” 

“There aren’t many instruments that are fundamental to most of the major genres,” Bolger said. “It’s present in all the different periods of classical music, jazz, folk music, blues, rock, thrash metal, punk, reggae … and we can draw on the associations to these other genres in our choices and interpretations, and it sounds natural to the fundamentals of the instrument.”

DGQ has also garnered attention from the world’s leading composers. The group has released an album on Glass’ Orange Mountain Music label and a new commission by Michael Gordon. 

Making tour stops in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York earlier this year, the quartet has performed alongside Grammy Award-winning LA Guitar Quartet, Conspirare and the Texas Guitar Quartet. 

Glass himself referred to the group as “a wonderful ensemble” and is “delighted that (his) music is part of their repertoire,” according to DGQ’s website. The group “has carved a place for (themselves) in the world of classical music.”

Chautauqua Piano Quartet to bring ‘joyful’ display of chamber music

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Berofsky, Bush, Votapek, Wang

Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

Returning for an expressive and engaging encore, the Chautauqua Piano Quartet will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall.

The ensemble first united onstage last season for the Saturday Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. The group performed an atmospheric and ambient program including works by Joaquín Turina and Johannes Brahms.

“(Last season’s performance) was wonderful,” said Aaron Berofsky, violinist for Chautauqua Piano Quartet. “(Our ensemble) feels like a dream team to me.”

With Berofsky on violin, the Chautauqua Piano Quartet is composed of Kathryn Votapek on viola, Felix Wang on cello and Phillip Bush on piano.

Berofsky and Votapek are married and “have been playing together forever,” Votapek said. Berofsky, Votapek and Wang are all School of Music faculty members, while Bush is a returning guest performer. 

Bush is widely acknowledged as one of the most experienced American chamber music pianists of his generation, and the Kansas City Star referred to him as “the ideal chamber musician.” 

“Phillip is my favorite pianist, and Felix is such a beautiful cellist,” Berofsky said. “… There are people in your life that if you had a choice, that’s the person you’d play with. Philip is always top on that list. So here we are, again.”

Berofsky and Bush have been friends since Berofsky was a teenager in school, and they have since recorded all of Beethoven’s violin and piano sonatas together. Berofsky said the duo tries to “come together every chance we get” to perform in harmony.

“Bush is a monster pianist. He’s able to play anything — he’s just that good,” Votapek said. “But he’s also so incredibly sensitive and such a wonderful collaborative pianist. It’s rare to get somebody who has both of those qualities.”

This Saturday’s program will include Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E-Flat Major, K. 493 and Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet in B-Flat Major, Op. 41. 

“Mozart’s Piano Quartet is beautiful, but it’s also incredibly creative and unusually submersive,” Berofsky said. “He wrote it for no money; he just wrote it out of love. So there is just something very special about it.”

Composed in 1786, Mozart’s Piano Quartet is widely regarded as one of the first great piano quartet compositions. Berofsky first performed this work in college, and he considers Mozart to be “the most wunderkind musician of all time.” 

Saint-Saëns’ Piano Quartet is considered a “neglected masterpiece,” and Votapek said she believes “a lot of people will be hearing that piece for the first time.”

Contrary to Beethoven’s Piano Quartet, Berofsky has never performed the Saint-Saëns, and he said it has “so much charm, delicacy and amazing composure.” 

Saint-Saëns’ work is “a delightful piece (that is) very interesting and very well crafted,” Votapek said. She said she believes his Piano Quartet is an “audience pleaser.” 

Votapek thinks Mozart’s Piano Quartet invokes “wonder of the universe, order, humanity and joy to be alive. … When you listen to his finest masterpieces, it just makes you feel blessed to be a human being alive on this Earth.”

Saint-Saëns’ composition is “so interesting and cleverly put together,” Votapek said. She said the program as a whole is “very joyful,” but it’s also a dynamic display of euphonious elements that can be “eerie” and “mysterious” at times. 

“(I hope the audience) is able to bask in the glow of the great, great music,” Berofsky said.

A taste of home: New Zealand String Quartet, Melville to give recital

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Alyssa Bump
contributing writer

Reminiscent of a five-course meal, chamber programs can evoke multiple different sensations for one’s musical palette. 

The New Zealand String Quartet is confident that their first performance at Chautauqua with Nicola “Nikki” Melville, co-chair of the Chautauqua Piano Program, will be a feast for the senses.

“We really enjoy making programs that are like a menu at dinner, where you don’t want to just eat three pieces of steak — you’d like to have a variety of flavors,” said Helene Pohl, first violin of the New Zealand String Quartet. “Each of these pieces brings its own color.”

For the Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series, members of the New Zealand String Quartet will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall with a program that offers a taste of their home country.

With Pohl on first violin, the quartet also features Monique Lapins on second violin, Gillian Ansell on viola and Rolf Gjelsten on cello.

Saturday evening’s program will include Gareth Farr’s Te Kōanga (Spring), Franz Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in C major, Op. 76 No. 3 (“Emperor”) and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57.

“We’re starting the concert with (Te Kōanga, which was) written by a friend of ours in New Zealand, and it is an homage to a deceased mutual friend who loved to walk in the New Zealand bush,” Pohl said. “Some New Zealand birds (are) featured in this piece. We love … bringing an audience into the sound world of the New Zealand bush.”

Te Kōanga means “spring” or “planting season” in Te Reo Māori, which is the native language of New Zealand.

Melville, originally from New Zealand, said Farr “just happens to be one of my dearest friends in the entire world. … It’s lovely for me on a personal level that this piece is by one of my very best friends from back when I was an undergrad in New Zealand.”

Haydn’s Quartet is one of the “most famous string quartets” he’s ever written, according to Pohl. The Quartet, also known as “Emperor,”became the national anthem of Austria in 1797 and later the anthem of Germany in 1922. 

The work is “a very, very beautiful slow movement,” Pohl said, and Melville added it is a “heightened piece with beautiful, gorgeous sets of variations.”

Shostakovich’s Piano Quintet is the final piece of the program, and it is the only work that will feature Melville on piano.

“(Piano Quintet) is a very stark and intense piece,” Melville said. “It’s really lovely and it’s extremely well written.”

As one of Shostakovich’s most popular works, Pohl said the piece is “one of the great masterpieces of chamber music literature” and is an “extremely powerful piece of music.”

The New Zealand String Quartet has performed with Melville on several occasions and Melville said this opportunity to perform with “friends is such a treat.”

Pohl echoed this eagerness to perform with someone who isn’t just a good friend, but a “wonderful musician and a great person,” as well.

The New Zealand String Quartet has been performing since 1987, and the group is the only full-time string quartet in New Zealand. The ensemble performs around 80 concerts per year and all the members teach at the New Zealand School of Music.

“Within New Zealand especially, (the quartet) is definitely the premier chamber music group,” Melville said. “… When they tour, they make a point of always performing New Zealand compositions, which is lovely.”

By bringing “a little bit of home to Chautauqua,” Melville hopes the audience will feel like “they have experienced a very wide range of emotions and interactions with the music.”

As the group’s first-ever performance on the grounds, Pohl said “we cannot wait to play for the audience that is in Chautauqua.”

Through chamber repetoire, string quartet Brooklyn Rider spark climate conversation

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Brooklyn Rider

Sarah Russo
Staff writer

During the pandemic, like the rest of the world, Brooklyn Rider met on Zoom. The group used the time to play together and dream up new projects. During one of those sessions, the members of the string quartet began to ask a very important question: What is the world going to be focused on in the future? 

Climate change and the stewardship of  the planet surfaced as their answer, and soon “The Four Elements” was created. In partnership with the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative, Brooklyn Rider will take the stage as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music’s Guest Artist Series at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. 

“Music sometimes could change the world in really unexpected ways,” said Brooklyn Rider violist Nicholas Cords. “And if it’s just a matter of the people in the room gathered around an idea, I think that’s justification enough for what we do.”

In addition to Cords, the ensemble is comprised of Johnny Gandelsman on violin, Colin Jacobsen on violin and Michael Nicolas on cello. For their more-than 15 years of collaboration, the group has created more than a dozen projects with careful selections and theming. 

While he understands that this project can’t solve climate change, Cords said he hopes it will begin a conversation. 

“We wanted to do something that was going to celebrate the planet that we live on,” Cords said. “Its beauty, its mystery.  (We) also wanted to do something that was trying to point the way towards the future and have a program that is based on listening and conversation.” 

“The Four Elements” abbreviated program will feature pieces representing earth, air, fire and water. 

Cords said the pieces the group chose were either based on symbolism and emotions, the history of a composer, the time period when the piece was written, or the feelings associated with the piece.

Even with a small group featuring only two violins, one viola and one cello, the messages in the music are clear.

“What’s special about this program at Chautauqua is that it’s a quartet only, so it’s quite intimate,” Cords said. “How expansive can we create? What kind of expansive world can we create with a string quartet where we’re never in the same place twice in a program, so that it really makes a journey from beginning to end? I think with the collection of pieces that we’re playing, I think we will be able to do that.”

For the piece representing earth, Brooklyn Rider will perform “Short While to Be Here” based on American traditional folk songs collected by Ruth Crawford Seeger and arranged by Jacobsen. Each of Seeger’s folk songs are in some way about animals.

“It’s … a celebration of those traditional tunes,” Cords said. “But in Colin’s hands it becomes a totally different piece.” 

The original program includes “Tenebrae” by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Goliath and is used to represent water; however, for the program at Chautauqua, Brooklyn Rider has included a collaboration with pianist and composer Conrad Tao.

Inspired by rising sea levels, Tao composed a piece referencing mythical wave spirit Undine. Through the music, Tao imagines how a modern version of Udine has influenced the changing way of life for people affected by the rising sea. 

Cords called Tao’s musical language “really gorgeous,” creating the “perfect” piece for water. 

To represent air, Brooklyn Rider sought out Andrea Pinto Correa, a young Portuguese composer. Her piece is inspired by dust storms from the Sahara Desert affecting her country, including the shifting of sand particles around the globe with climate change playing a role in how the storms are changing.

Collaborators, like Pinto Correa, are “always bringing something to the table that expands the (group’s) creative and expressive possibilities,” Cords said.

For the final element, fire, Brooklyn Rider chose Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 8. The group incorporated a post-World War II, potentially familiar piece “because the last hundred years has been such an accelerator of issues related to climate,” Cords said.

After the performance, the audience is invited to participate in a conversation including insights from Mark Wenzler, director of Chautauqua’s Climate Change Initiative.

“When we’re talking about something so big, so overarching, music is actually the perfect container for that because (it) contains multitudes,” Cords said. “Then to actually have a conversation with the audience afterward. Chautauqua is exactly that place for thoughtful dialogue. We have no illusion that what we’re doing is trying to solve this topic, but if it engenders a good, thoughtful conversation, I think that’s a win.” 

Chautauqua Trio to present elegiac repertoire honoring great artists

Chautauqua Trio

Alyssa Bump
Contributing Writer

Musical elegies and melodies make up the program for this weekend’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series. 

The Chautauqua Trio will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall with a riveting display of compositions dedicated to the memory of two exemplary composers. 

The trio features Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra members Vahn Armstrong on violin and Jolyon Pegis on cello, with School of Music faculty Kanae Matsumoto Giampietro on piano. 

Saturday’s program includes Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello and Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, Op. 50. 

“The Tchaikovsky is so big and so lush, and the Ravel is lean, rhythmically tricky and harmonically really challenging,” Pegis said. “(The Ravel) is a wonderful piece. … The interplay between the two instruments is so expertly done.”

Ravel’s piece will be performed by Armstrong and Pegis alone; Matsumoto Giampietro will join the pair onstage for the final Tchaikovsky piece.

The Sonata for Violin and Cello is dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy, one of Ravel’s mentors who died in 1918. Tchaikovsky dedicated his Piano Trio “to the memory of a great artist,” referring to his dear friend and mentor Nicholas Rubinstein, whose death in 1881 consumed Tchaikovsky with grief.

“Both (pieces) were written in memorial,” Armstrong said. “I think the Tchaikovsky is more obviously a memorial, (while) the Ravel is more of an homage.”

Even though the repertoire induces funereal and mournful tones, both pieces, particularly the Tchaikovsky, are extremely dynamic.

“In spite of the fact that there are elements in the Tchaikovsky that are very sad, I would say that that is not the general feeling,” Armstrong said. “I think a lot of it is really paying tribute to Rubinstein virtuosity. … There are (elements) that are brilliant, funny, charming, elegant and scholarly. … It’s got it all.”

Tchaikovsky’s work is a massive piece that takes nearly 45 minutes to perform, and Pegis has “been waiting years to perform” it.

All of the Chautauqua Trio members hope the audience will be “deeply moved by this music,” Armstrong said. 

Armstrong has performed with the CSO for 31 seasons, and Pegis joined 30 years ago. Matsumoto Giampietro has served on the School of Music faculty for 18 years.

Chamber music is a “very special kind of experience” because the form invites “very personal and individual expression,” Armstrong said.

Although Armstrong and Pegis have been performing together for decades, this will be their first time playing with the accompaniment of Matsumoto Giampietro. 

Matsumoto Giampietro has performed for the Saturday chamber series several times over the years. Her last chamber performance took place in 2019 in the form of a piano duo with Martin Dubé. Prior to that, she performed with the late violinist Jacques Israelievitch. 

“This time, especially, I am thinking about Mr. Israelievitch,” Matsumoto Giampietro said. “I learned a tremendous amount of (how to) play with strings from him.”

Matsumoto Giampietro is excited to perform chamber music once again with “wonderful string players” from the CSO.

“(Chamber) music is fantastic, and composers have reserved some of their most special ideas for their chamber music pieces because they know that it’s going to be performed in an intimate setting for people who are probably thoroughgoing music lovers,” Armstrong said. “… It’s a great pleasure to play.”

Chamberfest Cleveland takes inspiration from Kundera novel for afternoon chamber recital

070323 ChamberFest Cleveland 02

Sarah Russo
Staff Writer

Politics, love and betrayal will pulse from the strings of an ensemble portraying the deep inquiries of an existential novel through chamber music. Known for its thematic programming, Chamberfest Cleveland will perform at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall as part of the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series. 

Based on Milan Kundera’s novel The Unbearable Lightness of Being, today’s program includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major, K. 58 and Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Sextet in D major, Op. 110. 

Diana Cohen, co-founder of CFC, called the works “joyful” and “divine,” reflecting the spirit of the “amazingly evocative” 1984 philosophical tale set during the Prague Spring and Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968.

“There’s a lot of richness in that book that we used as inspiration to program our festival,” Cohen said. “The whole festival has a bit of a lightness to it, and in particular this last concert that we’re playing (at Chautauqua).”

Cohen, concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, and her father, Franklin Cohen, principal clarinet emeritus of the Cleveland Orchestra, founded CFC in 2012. What started as a five-concert series has since turned into a multi-disciplinary, three-week festival in northeast Ohio, which this year ran from June 14 to July 1. CFC has been called “the most important contribution to the region’s classical music scene” by the Cleveland press.

Kimberly Schuette, managing director of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and manager of artistic administration for performing and visual arts, said CFC holds a high standard when developing their concerts. 

“The individual musicians that the Cohens bring to ChamberFest Cleveland are some of the highest level musicians you’ll see in any U.S. chamber ensemble,” Schuette said.

Cohen said “curious thinkers” make up the ensemble.

“There are a lot of wonderful musicians in the world, but we love musicians who have a very specific, very personal voice,” Cohen said.

The ensemble for today’s concert is comprised of: Franklin Cohen on clarinet, Daniel Chong on violin, Diana Cohen on violin, Amy Schwartz Moretti on violin, Jessica Bodner on viola, Teng Li on viola, Julie Albers on cello, Jay Campell on cello, Nathan Farrington on bass, and Michael Stephen Brown on piano. Schuette said it is special to have a group like CFC at Chautauqua Institution.

“We’re so fortunate that ChamberFest Cleveland, a phenomenal series just two hours away from Chautauqua, annually wraps up their season on the first Saturday of July,” Schuette said. “That makes it easy for them to keep the festival going, by bringing a hand-picked roster of chamber musicians to perform one last program here at Chautauqua.”

Many members of CFC have performed at Chautauqua over the years. Cohen said it’s a great place to end their busy, hectic season. 

“It’s wonderful and it’s always kind of a beautiful way to cap off the end of festival season. And it’s a very different experience,” she said. “We hope that it feels to (our musicians) kind of like a mini-retreat at the end of what was a busy week in Cleveland. We have a lot of dear friends and Clevelanders who end up in Chautauqua, so it’s always nice to return to those same people.”

Quartet 394 kicks off Saturday Chamber Music Series with long-awaited debut

Screenshot 2023-07-01 at 2.14.08 AM
Stern, Gates, Richards, Kirvan

Alyssa Bump
Contributing Writer

Harmonizing through their string instruments and shared friendships, Quartet 394 will envelope Chautauquans in a state of expressive, musical euphonies.

Quartet 394 will share their repertoire at 4:15 p.m. Saturday in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall. The performance will kick off this season’s Chautauqua Chamber Music Resident Artist Series.

The dynamic group is composed of four Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra members: Eva Stern on viola, Lars Kirvan on cello, and Jonathan Richards and Amanda Gates on violin.

“We’ve all played with each other in different combinations, but this specific combination is a first,” Stern said.

Stern and Gates have been members of the CSO for 23 years, while Kirvan and Richards have been performing with the CSO for nine seasons. 

“The beauty of the Chautauqua Symphony, I find, is the repetition of playing in such a quick manner in terms of preparation,” Kirvan said. “So playing in quartets like this is actually a luxury in that we have many more rehearsals.” 

Quartet 394 has been waiting to perform in unison since 2020, but the group’s debut has been postponed for three seasons due to the pandemic. Performing in a quartet gives these musicians the opportunity to try their hand at new compositions they otherwise would not be able to perform in a symphony setting.

“This is our way of individualizing what we do,” Richards said. “… This is a way to make our own impressions, our own stamps on the music.”

Saturday afternoon’s program will include Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 3 in D major, Op. 18 and Prokofiev’s String Quartet No. 2 in F major, Op. 92.

“The repertoire is beautiful,” Kirvan said. “It’s some of the most famous music out of classical music along with symphonies.”

Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 3 is his very first quartet composition from 1798, and the piece is much more classical in style than the companion piece on the program. 

Prokofiev’s String Quartet is “a departure even from Prokofiev’s usual style,” Gates said. “… This (composition) is definitely more rough.”

Prokofiev pushed beyond classical boundaries when he wrote his quartet in the foothills of the Caucasus Mountains in 1941. During this time, the composer was seeking refuge from the Nazi invasion in Russia, and he was heavily inspired by the folk music of the area.

“Prokofiev was using themes he heard from the Greeks there, so it reminds one more of Bartók,” Gates said. “This guttural folk music … is infused with this sense of classiness.” 

The Beethoven and Prokofiev string quartets are two “incredible pieces, but very, very different pieces,” Kirvan said. “It’s a really nice contrasting program.”

While Beethoven’s composition is bold and classical, Prokofiev’s is more humorous and exploratory in nature. 

“We play in a very different style from the Beethoven to the Prokofiev,” Kirvan said. “There is less vibrato in the Beethoven, less coloration of extremes. The Prokofiev is more in your face, doing whatever you feel is artistically expressive, (which) was more acceptable for the time period.” 

Week One’s theme was “On Friendship,” and the musicality of Quartet 394 is heightened by their close-knit relationship with one another. Stern and Gates have been dear friends since they joined the CSO the same season 23 years ago.

“Something special and unique to musicians is that we tend to stay in one place for a long time,” Gates said. “So we form deep roots and deep friendships wherever we are. It infuses and informs the music that you’re playing with this extra layer. … Our friendships make (our performance) an even richer experience.”

With seven Saturday chamber performances left to follow Quartet 394’s debut, Kirvan hopes their performance “whets (Chautauquans’) appetites for more chamber and orchestral music to come.”

Saturday’s program is “so diverse,” he said, “even with just the two works — that it will satisfy most listeners who will be attending, whether they’re classical music fans or first-time listeners.”

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