June has arrived in Southeast Michigan, and that means a number of things to the residents of the area. One of the most exciting things for music fans in June is the return of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. This year marks the 22nd edition of the Festival. Twenty-two years! I can hardly believe it, for I can remember first attending concerts when the festival was in single digit years. Originally, concerts were held in three large area churches. Over the years, the Festival has expanded its footprint to a number of additional venues. No matter where in the area you happen to live, there is a concert on the schedule that is very accessible to you.
The 2015 Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival has concerts from June 13 to June 28, over twenty performances overall. Subscribers can buy tickets to anywhere from three to nine performances, earning a larger discount when more tickets are purchased. I usually have no trouble finding nine performances I would love to attend. What is difficult for me, is finding time to attend all of them in a two-week span! One of these years I am going to get smart and take time off from my busy work schedule to attend more performances.
The artistic director of the Festival this year is Paul Watkins, cellist, conductor and current member of the Emerson String Quartet. The theme for this year’s series of concerts is “New Beginnings: Making Music in America”, and a significant portion of the music programmed is composed by American composers. (It’s true Martha, not all classical music was written by dusty old dead German guys!) He has organized a series of music that looks to be absolutely fabulous. There are enough pieces that I know well enough to vouch that there will be some superb performances. There are also enough lesser known works, I will be hearing for the first time.
The opening night concert features members of the Emerson Quartet in twos and threes, finally building up to the whole quartet playing the two closing works. It is a very creative way to include a variety of musical textures with a small number of forces all on one concert. The program for opening night on June 13 is:
Martinu | Three Madrigals for Violin and Viola, H. 313
Philip Setzer, violin; Lawrence Dutton, viola
Dvořák | Terzetto in C major, Op. 74
Eugene Drucker, violin; Philip Setzer, violin; Lawrence Dutton, viola
Bloch | Suite Hébraïque
Lawrence Dutton, viola; Paul Watkins, piano
Barber | Adagio from String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11
Emerson String Quartet
Dvořák | String Quartet No 12. in F major, Op. 96, “American”
Emerson String Quartet
The Dvořák piece that closes the concert is a staple of the string quartet repertoire, written in 1893 when Antonin Dvořák was having an extended stay in America. It was composed right after his famous “New World” symphony, which is one of his most popular symphonic compositions. Samuel Barber’s Adagio is one of the most famous pieces of music composed by any American, and is most often heard in the adaptation for string orchestra. There at the Chamber Music Festival, we will hear the original version for string quartet. The Adagio is the slow movement from Barber’s String Quartet in B minor, and I always enjoy hearing all the movements of the work in their entirety. In the quartet setting, I find the slow movement to be an intense, introspective listening experience that well deserves all of the fame it has earned.
I would strongly encourage anyone to look into attending one of the concerts of the festival, if you are in the Great Lakes area during the last two weeks of June. You can buy tickets online at their website, or on the night of the concert at each venue (if any are left!). I assure you it will be time well spent.