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Monadnock Region Resounds with Chamber Music


Jaffrey Centre Meeting House
Jaffrey Centre Meeting House

The ambitious, two-year-old Electric Earth Concerts presents an intriguing chamber program of two works this Saturday evening, June 15th at 7:30 pm at First Church in Jaffrey NH: Russian violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky’s string trio arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations and American composer Stephen Hartke’s King of the Sun: Tableaux for piano and strings. The transcribed Bach features Horszowski Trio violinist Jesse Mills and cellist Raman Ramakrishnan joined by violist Jonathan Bagg, Electric Earth Concerts co-artistic director (and Duke professor). For the Hartke this threesome will be augmented by Horszowski Trio pianist Rieko Aizawa.

Bagg describes Sitkovetsky’s recasting of Bach’s “infinitely imaginative counterpoint” as a “vivid three-voice chamber music setting that has delighted audiences since it was published in the mid-’80s.” Even more vivid to some ears is “King of the Sun,” which is, as Bagg notes, “both whimsical and serious … derived from diverse inspirations, including an anonymous medieval canon and the painter Joan Miro.”

Taking its name from a quotation associated with Beethoven (likely from one of the Brentanos), “Music is the electric soil in which the spirit lives, thinks, invents,” Electric Earth Concerts is midway into its second year. Co-director and flutist Laura Gilbert, who also teaches at the Mannes College of Music, says, “Despite being a young festival, we have big ambitions. People in the area yearned to have interesting, high-quality concerts year-round, so we’ve responded.” Electric Earth Concerts sets as its dual mission bringing music both to the concert hall and to special-needs communities in southwest New Hampshire. This year it has presented eight concerts (of 19 scheduled), including the first complete Beethoven String Quartet cycle in the Monadnock Region; it has also brought music to such residential communities of care as Plowshare Farm in Greenfield and the Lukas Community in Temple, whose residents can experience high-quality performances in their home environment, benefiting from the healing and educational power of live music even if not easily able to attend public concerts.

“Laura and I start with a programming idea, then pick the players to fit,” says Bagg. “We aim for the best possible performance of any given piece. We’re lucky to have a great circle of musicians to draw on.” In addition to the Borromeo Quartet, sopranos Tony Arnold and Ilana Davidson, mezzos Janna Baty and young star Jennifer Cano appear, as well as the superb Horszowski Trio and pianist Randall Hodgkinson. Electric Earth Concerts also often look beyond music, to connections with literature, dance, and visual art.

Horszowsky Trio (file photo)
Horszowski Trio (file photo)

Two weeks from this Saturday, on June 29that 7:30pm, “A Summer Serenade” will be presented. Gilbert describes: “Some of the most poignant and evocative chamber works resonate with melody and rhythm inspired by the composer’s native folk music. Electric Earth musicians journey through France, Serbia, Bohemia, Argentina and Italy to explore some of the native idioms that sparked the creation of these works.” Virtuoso guitarist Oren Fader joins cellist Elizabeth Anderson and Gilbert and Bagg.

Ranging widely, the program includes several works by 19th-century violin superstar Niccolo Paganini, who wrote many pieces for guitar as well; his elegant and slightly over-the-top Terzetto Concertante casts each instrument of the quartet in a virtuoso role while drawing upon the Italian lyrical ballad. Contemporary virtuosos Dusan Bogdanovic and Astor Piazzola write evocatively in their native tongues, with inspiration from Balkan dervish dance to Argentinian tango and Portuguese Fado. French neoclassicist Albert Roussel exudes breezy Gallic lyricism while flirting with songs of Lower Brittany. Schubert’s loving transcription of a work by Bohemian guitarist-composer W.T. Matiegka will end the program, one that covers a broad stylistic landscape.

A partnership with the brand-new Avaloch Farm Music Institute in Boscawen, NH also figures in Electric Earth’s 2013 schedule. Avaloch Farm provides competitive residencies for professional groups developing new repertory and directions. This fall Electric Earth Concerts will feature two groups from Avaloch: Trio Cleonice (piano trio) and New Morse Code Duo (cello and percussion).

Bagg and Gilbert founded Electric Earth concerts two seasons ago after they were surprisingly terminated from their positions as co-artistic directors of Monadnock Music.

Electric Earth Concerts tickets are $25, with admission free to middle and high school students. The listings can be found on BMInt’s “Upcoming Events.” For reservations, email, call Miki Osgood at (603) 593-5245, or click here .


Postcard perfect meeting house (file photo)
Postcard perfect meeting house (file photo)

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