The festival asks audiences to jump into a musical discussion where new voices are always welcome.
Chamber music has an elitist reputation. It’s undeserved — and Sally Faron wants to set the record straight.
“Chamber music is the most accessible form of classical music there is,” she says. “There’s an electrifying immediacy in a chamber concert. The musicians look at each other rather than a conductor, and the instruments play off each other. It’s an intimate musical conversation.”
Faron should know. This year’s La Musica International Chamber Music Festival marks its 33rd anniversary, and Faron has helped keep the musical dialogue alive for 30 of those years — as executive director 1989-2012 and then board president ever since. She’s proud of that accomplishment. But Faron and classical music didn’t always get along.
“I plunked out the usual classics under protest,” she says of her piano lesson experience. “My piano teacher could see I wasn’t happy and convinced my mother to let me stop taking classical lessons and play my favorite songs instead. My love of music began that day.”
Faron kept playing, and eventually fell in love with classical music all on her own. She says that although she no longer plays piano, she still keeps a tight connection to the music.
“I live vicariously through some of the greatest musicians in the world during La Musica Festival,” she says.
This year’s festival, entitled “Truthful and Timeless,” runs April 8-17, and is headed up by La Musica Artistic Director (and violinist) Bruno Giuranna and Associate Artistic Director (and pianist) Derek Han. Nine musicians join them: violinists Federico Agostini, Marta Kowalczyk and Ruth Lenz; violist Daniel Palmizio; cellists Dmitri Atapine and Christine J. Lee; flutist Demarre McGill; harpist Ann Hobson Pilot; and soprano Catherine Wethington.
The festival includes a variety of events centered around four concerts at the Sarasota Opera House and a series of open rehearsals at New College of Florida.
Faron says the rehearsals are one of the most popular programs because they offer audiences the rare opportunity to watch the musicians interact and fine tune each composition up close.
“We do our best to demystify the process,” says Faron. “Audiences can see exactly how the music comes together ... Festivalgoers who’ve experienced the rehearsals appreciate the final concerts at a much deeper level.”
Along with enlightening today’s chamber music lovers, La Musica also nurtures the next generation of chamber musicians. That’s the reason its top-flight musicians are a blend of emerging and established talents. “... Giuranna designed the festival as a learning experience,” explains Faron. “It’s a way of allowing younger artists to learn from older artists and vice versa.”
What’s new this year?
Faron is excited to present soprano Catherine Wethington in a performance of songs about “our fine-feathered friends,” to get a little jazzy with a work by the Ukrainian jazz composer Nikolai Kapustin and to hear a piece by English composer Frank Bridge called “The Londonberry Air” — an Irish melody that will be performed in the children’s concert.
Faron says another highlight is a work by one of the first American female composers, Amy Marcy Beach, who stopped composing when she married in 1885. “But the minute her husband died, she was back to composing and performing; it was all still there,” she says.
She adds that the festival is also pleased to welcome Sarasota resident and former principal harpist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, harpist Ann Hobson Pilot.
This year’s theme, “Truthful and Timeless,” is exactly what we need in today’s polarized world, Han says.
“Chamber music is pure, and it endures across the ages,” he says. “It’s amazing to think that a European composer wrote some dots on a piece of paper in the 1700s — and we can still hear their song today.”