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Rockport Begins Festival Season


David Deveau (Paul Cary Goldberg photo)
David Deveau (Paul Cary Goldberg photo)

The 35th edition of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival begins Friday night as the “Miraculous Menahem” (Pressler, 92) along with the brilliant young Parker Quartet essay Dvořák’s Piano Quintet in A Major, Op. 81 along with string quartets by Haydn and Bartok. We asked Artistic Director David Deveau to comment about this year’s Festival which runs at the beautiful seaside Shalin Liu Center through July 22nd. Tickets are available for virtually all programs. See www.rockportmusic for details and to order tickets.

DD: One of my particular pleasures in programming each festival season is providing musical surprises for our audience. There are many this summer. For example, the venerable percussion ensemble Nexus (June 4) will make its RCMF debut with a characteristically original, varied program of works of Steve Reich and George H. Green, among others. The Shalin Liu Performance Center’s superb acoustic is hospitable to a variety of instrumental and vocal timbres, and it will be fun to experience Nexus’s unique blend of percussion instruments in our hall.

Another surprise is the coffeehouse opera Othello in the Seraglio (the Tragedy of Sümbül the Black Eunuch (June 12). This work, with music by Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, tells an age-old story of passionate love and murderous jealousy. Sümbül, a Black slave in the 17th-century Ottoman Court, rises to power and riches, only to come to a tragic end. The staged piece is performed on European period instruments and traditional Turkish instruments by an ensemble of 12 instrumentalists, singers and a storyteller. It’s a uniquely powerful musico-dramatic experience.

In past seasons we’ve pushed the envelope with such offerings as The Play of Daniel and staged Charpentier operas, so Othello is following in our occasional outside-the-chamber music-box tradition. A different sort of surprise awaits in the form of a trumpet and piano recital by Brandon Ridenour and Naomi Kudo (June 10). Brandon is the first trumpeter of the Canadian Brass and will be performing the first trumpet recital ever at RCMF. His program is an appealing mix of Gershwin, Debussy, Ravel and Bernstein, with some piano solos in the mix to offer him a little rest (and to display Naomi’s solo virtuosity!) And yet another surprise is the Harlem Quartet joined by Cuban jazz pianist Aldo López-Gavilán, well-known for his tremendous skills which inspired jazz pianist Chucho Valdes to proclaim him “simply a genius, a star.” The concert includes works by Billy Strayhorn and Dizzy Gillespie, as well as several original compositions by López-Gavilán himself. This program is more jazz than “classical”, but with the string quartet onstage, our classical roots will be on full display.

LE: What about more standard fare?

Well, as a chamber music festival, we of course present a very substantial range of both familiar and less familiar works for traditional ensembles (e.g. piano trio, string quartet, duos for strings and piano, etc.) The surprises in this department this year come in the form of many 2016 Festival debuts: the brilliant piano trios Trio Solisti (June 5) and the renowned Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio (June 16); a world premiere of a new piano quintet by one of RCMF’s favorite living composers, Elena Ruehr played by pianist Donald Berman and the Borromeo quartet (June 9); New York based cellist Ben Capps will make his RCMF recital debut, joined by pianist Vassily Primakov, in an appealing program of Britten, Strauss and others (June 11).

French pianist Lise de la Salle makes her solo debut on June 18 with Beethoven, Ravel, Debussy and Brahms. On Father’s Day (June 19), the Boston-based Chameleon Arts Ensemble makes its debut in a program of works by JS Bach and three of his sons, which will clearly show the transition from the late Baroque to the early Classical eras. Another important RCMF debut comes on June 25 with a recital by newly appointed NY Philharmonic concertmaster Frank Huang, with longtime Festival favorite Gilles Vonsattel at the piano. The final surprises come at the end of the season with a Tango evening featuring violinist Cho-Liang Lin, clarinetist David Shifrin and friends playing works by Piazzola, Lalo Schifrin and others; and finally on July 10, the astonishing Russian-American pianist Kirill Gerstein who performs a recital of Beethoven and Liszt.

David Deveau (Paul Cary Goldberg photo)

How about returning artists?

Of course, many Festival favorites are performing again this year, including violinist Andres Cardenes, BSO principal bass Edwin Barker (playing the Tubin bass concerto, premiered in Rockport in 1949!), Chanticleer (July 22); Jeremy Denk (June 30) and others.

Anything else?

Lots of terrific educational and ancillary activities—family concerts, pre-concert lectures, Friday prelude-suppers in our beautiful ocean-view reception hall, a masterclass, an open rehearsal.

This is your penultimate season as Artistic Director. What can we expect of your final season in 2017?

A few surprises, no doubt…, but also, many returning artists and ensembles who’ve been closely associated with RCMF during my 22 years at the helm. Stay tuned. It will be fun!

We’ll miss you thereafter.

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