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Arts and Entertainment Thursday, May 23, 2019 10 months ago

Sarasota Music Festival provides three weeks of chamber delight

The annual Sarasota Music Festival creates an ad hoc community with the power of chamber music.
by: Marty Fugate Contributor

According to physicists, the universe is expanding. The Sarasota Music Festival (SMF) is, too. In 2019, Sarasota Orchestra’s yearly celebration of chamber music will offer four weekends of concerts, not just three. In another first, it will also boast two professional ensembles. The Montrose Trio and Pacifica Quartet will both perform and teach.

It adds up to 50 classical compositions performed by 40 acclaimed faculty artists and 60 emerging classical musicians. For area chamber music lovers, it’s the equivalent of a candy store. For the next generation of classical performers, it’s a chance to learn by doing.

This marks Jeffrey Kahane’s third year as the festival’s music director. The celebrated pianist and conductor can hardly wait.

“It’s a very special experience,” he says. “Young string players will be coached by great musicians and two of the world’s great string quartets. There’s really nothing to compare with what the festival has to offer young talent.”

According to to RoseAnne McCabe, the organization’s administrative director, the festival also offers a chance to create relationships.

“There’s a lot of energy and excitement in the air,” she says. “I love being up close with established and rising musicians on the verge of amazing careers. Getting to witness the faculty and fellows interact is such an honor.”

Kahane feels the same. “I meet musicians of all ages on a regular basis for whom their experience at the festival has been unforgettable and has a tremendous impact on their musical lives,” he says. “I think audiences will be electrified by the performances they hear from the musicians. It is truly one of the crown jewels of Sarasota’s cultural life, don’t miss it.”

Here are a few highlights from this year’s festival:


‘Brahms’ Violin’

The violin virtuosity of Angelo Yu, Yehudi Menuhin, and Jeffrey Kahane bring Brahms’ three Sonatas for Violin and Piano to electrifying life. “These beloved sonatas are near and dear to my heart,” says Kahane. “I especially look forward to playing with my colleague Angelo, who’s one of my favorite violinists in the world. This marks the first time that we’ll perform an entire evening of music together.”

When: 7:30 p.m. June 1

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $30


‘Fairy Tales and Fantasy’

Jon Kimura Parker is one of the pianists playing in "Fairy Tales and Fantasy." Courtesy photo

Five great composers create musical alchemy from classic tales of mystery and imagination. The magic includes Robert Schumann’s childlike Märchenbilder (Fairy Tale Pictures) for Viola and Piano; Paul Schoenfield’s gleefully devilish Trio for Violin, Clarinet and Piano; and two heavenly meditations by Bergère and Clearfield. Fauré’s fiery Piano Quartet No. 1 closes the concert, in a performance by violist Aloysia Friedmann and the Montrose Trio. While each composer weaves his own special magic, Kahane finds Schumann particularly spellbinding. “Of all the great romantics, none was more immersed in the realm of fairytales and the supernatural than Schumann,” he says. “So many of his pieces were inspired by fantastic tales.”

When: 4:30 p.m. June 6

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $29


‘Triple Crown’

“Triple Crown” features the Montrose Trio, a collaboration formed in 2013 from a long relationship between pianist Jon Kimura Parker and the Tokyo String Quartet. Courtesy photo

J.S. Bach, Antonio Vivaldi, and Felix Mendelssohn. For classical music lovers, that’s a triple threat. The concert opens with J.S. Bach’s beloved Triple Concerto, performed by Ani Kavafian, two violin fellows and Kahane on harpsichord. Richard Svoboda (Boston Symphony’s principal bassoonist) and Kahane will then play one of Antonio Vivaldi’s 39 concertos for bassoon, followed by Nathan Hughes (Metropolitan Opera’s principal oboist) performance of Mozart’s only concerto for the oboe. Mendelssohn’s energetic Piano Trio No. 2 will supply the final notes — as performed by the Montrose Trio.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 7

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $29



“Windfall” features clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, who has performed on major concert stages throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. Courtesy photo

This concert opens with two works for winds written late in life by venerable artists. Francis Poulenc’s elegiac Sonata for Oboe and Piano was his final composition — a farewell to life, perhaps. Johannes Brahms had ceased composing and written his will when a gifted clarinetist inspired him to write The Clarinet Trio in A Minor — the first of his final four compositions for the clarinet. Pacifica Quartet will close the program with Beethoven’s dazzling String Quartet No. 9 in C Major, a tribute to his patron, Count Razumovsky.

When: 4:30 p.m. June 13

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $29


‘Larger Forces’

Chamber music ensembles don’t always think small. This concert showcases bravura performances by larger ensembles. Flutist Carol Wincenc and cellist Desmond Hoebig of the festival faculty will join forces with eight festival fellows for a rare rendition of Jean Francaix’ “Dixtuor.” Pacifica Quartet and a quartet of festival fellows will also perform Mendelssohn’s charming Octet in E-flat Major. Kahane describes it as, “one of the most beloved pieces of chamber music.” He and Pacifica Quartet will also perform Brahms’ transcendental Piano Quintet in F Minor.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 14

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $29 


‘Three Titans’

"The Three Titans" features Alexander Kerr. Courtesy photo

Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven are the titans in question — in a titanic performance by the festival orchestra. The triple-threat concert includes the youthful energy of Beethoven’s Octet in E-flat Major for winds, Haydn’s Symphony No. 80 and Mozart’s beloved Clarinet Concerto, featuring clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 15

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $35


‘Fanny Mendelssohn’

Felix Mendelssohn is a household name. His sister Fanny was equally talented — but couldn’t pursue a musical career, thanks to the misogyny of her time. This concert sets the record straight with a performance of her Piano Trio in D Minor, which was only published after her death. Kahane describes it as a work of “passion, brilliance and imagination.” He adds that, “Fanny Mendelssohn was a truly phenomenal talent from one of Europe’s most remarkable families. Her life is one of the great untold stories of the 19th century.” Two sprightly compositions by Beethoven and Ludwig Thuille will also be performed.

When: 4:30 p.m. June 20

Where: Holley Hall

Tickets: From $29


‘Beethoven, Brahms and Bebop’

This year's festival features 60 rising stars in the program supporting up-and-coming young musicians. Courtesy photo

Bebop revels in quick tempo, lightning-fast chord changes, complex harmonic interplay and dazzling virtuosity. This American jazz style emerged in the mid-1940s, but classical musicians had found the groove years before. This concert intersperses the switchback changes of Wynton Marsalis’ “Meeelaan” for bassoon and string quartet with sizzling compositions by Beethoven and Brahms. This concert closes with a premiere of a reconstruction of the original chamber version of Brahms’ D Major Serenade. “Music lovers know it as an orchestral piece, but Brahms first conceived it as chamber music for nine musicians,” says Kahane. “This is an amazing festival first.”

When: 7:30 p.m. June 21

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $29


‘Pianos Paired’

“Pianos Paired” features former SMF Music Director Robert Levin and current SMF Music Director Jeffrey Kahane. Courtesy photo

Mozart will be in good hands at the final concert. Those hands belong to acclaimed pianists Robert Levin (a Mozart scholar and former SMF music director) and Kahane (this year’s director) when they perform Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos. Kahane notes that this program has a cultural connection: “The concerto is sparkling and melodious, a perfect fit for an all-Viennese program accompanied by Shubert and Strauss.” From here, the festival orchestra will fill the air with the iconic first movement of Schubert’s “unfinished” Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, followed by Johann Strauss Jr.’s exuberant Overture to Die Fledermaus. It’s a suitably grand finale to a very grand festival.

When: 7:30 p.m. June 22

Where: Sarasota Opera House

Tickets: From $35

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