The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Aug 14, 2013

Rising stars, veteran players on bill for Miami's Friends of Chamber Music series

Posted by Gregory Stepanich

The Ehnes String Quartet.

The Friends of Chamber Music of Miami series is one of the oldest continually operating such series in the country, not to mention South Florida, where nothing else really compares with its longevity.

For the 57th season, organizer Julian Kreeger, an attorney by profession but best known in these parts for his yeoman service on behalf of classical music, has assembled a fine lineup of established and rising musicians for concerts planned for September through May.

Here’s a look at the eight concerts, five of which will be at the beautiful Coral Gables Congregational Church, and the three others at the University of Miami’s Gusman Hall.

First up is the Ehnes Quartet, a foursome founded by the Canadian violinist (and Florida resident) James Ehnes, who has brought together three other players as good as he is for the occasional foursome: violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, violist Richard O’Neill, and cellist Robert DeMaine, principal of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Sept. 23 concert features a very popular work, Schubert’s String Quartet No. 14 (in D minor, D. 810), better known as the Death and the Maiden Quartet, from the Schubert song that provides the material for one of the movements, along with the First Quartet (in E-flat, Op. 12) of Mendelssohn, and the one-movement Quartet No. 7 (in F-sharp minor, Op. 108) of Shostakovich.

On Oct. 1, the Franco-Cypriot pianist Cyprien Katsaris is joined by violinist Mikhail Simonyan, violist Roberto Diaz, and cellist William DeRosa for a performance of the Schumann Piano Quartet (in E-flat, Op. 47), one of the most beloved works in the genre. Katasaris also will play some solo works, as yet undecided.

Anton Kuerti. Anton Kuerti.

Next is the Austro-Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti, who opened last year’s series with some revelatory readings of little-known Beethoven miniatures. He continues his exploration of Beethoven on Oct. 17, with two sonatas (Nos. 16 in G, Op. 31, No. 1, and 28 in A, Op. 101) and a host of smaller works, including the two Rondos of Op. 51, his late Eleven Bagatelles (Op. 119), and two popular miniatures, the Rage Over a Lost Penny and a piece that almost every beginning pianist learns, the bagatelle known as Für Elise.

The much-admired Ukrainian-born pianist Valentina Lisitsa, seen recently as accompanist for violinist Hilary Hahn, gives a recital Nov. 19 featuring the Liszt transcription of Schubert’s last song cycle, Schwanengesang, as well as two Russian sonatas: Prokoviev’s Seventh (in B-flat, Op. 83) and Shostakovich’s Second (in B minor, Op. 61).

The first four concerts in the series are Coral Gables Congregational, but the new year opens Jan. 5 at Gusman Hall with an all-Brahms program that includes pianist Joseph Kalichstein, violist Diaz and clarinetist Ricardo Morales. The two late, beautiful Clarinet Sonatas – one (Op. 120, No. 1 in F minor) played by Morales, and the second (Op. 120, No. 2 in E-flat) played by Diaz in its alternate guise as a viola sonata —are on the program, and Kalichstein rounds out the proceedings with the second of Brahms’ three early piano sonatas (No. 2 in F-sharp minor, Op. 2).

Kalichstein returns Feb. 9 to Gusman to be joined by his usual partners, violinist Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson, in the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, one of the finest chamber groups anywhere, and frequent visitors to South Florida during the winter concert months. Mendlessohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 (in C minor, Op. 66) shares the bill with the Notturno of Schubert (in E-flat, D. 897) and the Piano Trio No. 2 (in G minor, Op. 26) of Dvořák.

Mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta. Mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta.

The series returns to Coral Gables Congregational on March 27 for a more unusual event, a song recital by the rising Canadian mezzo Wallis Giunta, accompanied by the veteran pianist Ken Noda. The two will perform the Kurt Weill song cycle The Seven Deadly Sins on an eclectic program that offers pieces by Britten, Monteverdi and Poulenc, as well as the comic duo of Flanders and Swann, American songwriters Stephen Foster and Cole Porter, and even The Beatles’ John Lennon.

The series closes at Gusman Hall on May 6 when the 21-year-old British pianist phenom Benjamin Grosvenor is joined by the Escher String Quartet for the Piano Quintet No. 2 (in A, Op. 81) of Dvorak. Grosvenor will be heard in solo works, and the Escher also will play as a quartet alone.

Kreeger has been able over the years to bring in first-rate talent, and he makes a strong effort every year to bring in new, as well as established, artists. This year is particularly good in that respect, and the series as a whole is in the best tradition of serious music-making at the highest level.

Individual tickets are $35 ($10 for students), and can be had by going to the society’s Eventbrite link, at the door, or by calling 305-372-2975.

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