Collaboration launches festival

Classical music

October 02, 2001|By Tim Smith | Tim Smith,SUN MUSIC CRITIC

An unusual collaborative effort among three Baltimore organizations will put the spotlight on 20th-century chamber music next June. Offering seven concerts in three days and making use of three different string quartet ensembles, the New Chamber Festival Baltimore promises to be a lively addition to the local music calendar.

"The 20th century was the most prolific musical century we've ever had," says Bill Nerenberg, managing director of the Shriver series and president of the festival. "We are going to try to give people a comprehensive view of what the century was like."

The board includes Peabody director Robert Sirota, Genya Hopkins and Cindy Kelly of Evergreen House, and George Nelson of the Chamber Music Society of Baltimore.

"Our hope is for the festival to become a permanent part of the cultural scene here," Nerenberg says. "We wouldn't do it every year, but perhaps every couple of years."

In planning for the festival, a committee considered 75 composers and nearly 400 works for string quartet. "That didn't even scratch the surface," Nerenberg says.

Once a representative repertoire was agreed on, the search started for groups willing to tackle it. Of those contacted, three responded enthusiastically - the St. Lawrence String Quartet, founded in Canada in 1989 and ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University; the Endellion String Quartet, founded in 1979 in England, where it is in residence at Cambridge University; and the Flux Quartet, formed in 1996 by musicians who studied together at New York's Juilliard School of Music.

"These groups represent what I like to call the undiscovered geniuses of classical music," Nerenberg says.

Composers include Maurice Ravel and Kurt Weill from the early decades of the 20th century; Dmitri Shostakovich from mid-century; Renaud Gagneux and Tom Chiu from the most recent days.

Shriver Hall, Peabody and Evergreen House will house concerts for the festival, June 20-22.

"It's timed for the end of the Baltimore Symphony season and before all the summer festivals start," Nerenberg says. "When everyone is taking a breather, we want to give people something that will take their breath away."

Call 410-516-7164.

Weekend concerts

The Peabody Symphony Orchestra heated up Friedberg Concert Hall Saturday evening with a dynamic account of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4. Conductor Hajime Teri Murai can be counted on to do much more than lead students through a piece of music; he had them boring into the symphony, responding to distinctive ideas about phrasing and tempo.

The strings sustained a cohesive sound and confidently negotiated technical challenges, especially the pizzicato third movement and dizzying finale. Woodwinds and brass made up for the occasional frayed edge with earnest playing.

The program also included Brahms' Violin Concerto. Soloist Martin Beaver's assets included a solid technique and richly colored phrases, which gave the most songful moments of the score particular vibrancy.

On Sunday afternoon, pianist Kevin Kenner launched the 15th season of Community Concerts at Second with a recital devoted to Chopin and Ravel. The latter's prismatic music brought out the best in Kenner, who did shimmering work throughout Miroirs and gave the Pavane for a Dead Princess a beautifully shaped, unaffected performance.

The pianist's way with Chopin seemed rather pale by comparison, with generally stiff rhythms and routine phrase-molding.


Responding to the recent tragedies in this country, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society has revised its season-opening program Nov. 4 at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium. Replacing works by Handel and Britten will be Brahms' elegiac Nanie and Haydn's Mass in Time of War. The Mass was composed in 1796 as Napoleon was threatening the Viennese, who felt "many of the same emotions that our country is experiencing today," music director Tom Hall says.

Call 410-523-7070.

This week's guest concertmaster for the BSO will be Lev Polyakin, an Uzbekistan native who currently serves as assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra.

Meanwhile, former BSO concertmaster Herbert Greenberg has canceled his scheduled performances of Bruch's Violin Concerto No. 1 with the BSO in January. No replacement has been announced.

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