Aspen Ensemble to bring chamber music to UB

  • The Aspen Ensemble, University of Baltimore's new ensemble in residence, will play its first concert Wednesday.
The Aspen Ensemble, University of Baltimore's new ensemble… (Handout )
January 26, 2010|By Tim Smith | | Baltimore Sun reporter

When it opened in the spring of 2006, the Performing Arts Theater in the University of Baltimore's Student Center boasted an attractive, intimate ambience and good acoustics - not to mention a new, nine-foot Steinway piano chosen for the room, by no less than eminent pianist Yefim Bronfman.

Different classical music enterprises have come and gone in that 200-seat space, including a chamber series featuring Baltimore Symphony Orchestra players and a piano recital series. Nothing has taken hold.

"I'm a tenacious guy," says UB president Robert Bogomolny. "We're still desirous of having some amount of classical music there on a reliable and predictable basis."

The newest venture begins this week, launched by a five-member chamber group called the Aspen Ensemble, UB's new "ensemble in residence." Formed in 2001 at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, where the players teach and perform each summer, the group consists of flute, violin, viola, cello and piano.

Bogomolny, a longtime admirer of the ensemble, wanted to offer "first-rate music in this facility, and connect it to the student body," he says.

Classical music "is not generally a part of their lives right now," says the ensemble's violist, Victoria Chiang, a member of the Peabody Conservatory faculty. "UB doesn't have a music department. We're still in the first stage of figuring out how we can touch students' lives with music."

The group will launch its residency on Wednesday with the first of two public concerts (the other will be in April). Since there's hardly any repertoire for the combination of flute, strings and piano, Aspen Ensemble programs are typically diverse. "Every piece uses a different group of instruments," Chiang says.

For Wednesday's concert, the lineup includes Beethoven's genial Serenade for Flute, Violin and Viola, and Brahms' vibrant Piano Quartet in G minor, as well as music by Bohuslav Martinu.

"We approached [WBJC-FM program director and announcer] Jonathan Palevsky about being the narrator for the program and tying the repertoire together in a logical way," Chiang says. "We are really trying to present a very high level of music-making, but in a way that isn't intimidating, so that somebody who has never been to a chamber music concert will enjoy it."

Besides Chiang, the performers are pianist Rita Sloan (she teaches at the University of Maryland, College Park); cellist Michael Mermagen (he teaches at Catholic University); Wisconsin-based violinist David Perry and New York-based flutist Nadine Asin.

The ensemble's UB residency "will be an interesting challenge," Chiang says, "but I feel that, eventually, it will enhance everyone's lives. Many musical people I know don't even know about the hall. We're doing our best to get the word out."

The Aspen Ensemble concert will be at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the UB Student Center, Maryland and Mount Royal avenues. Tickets are $5 to $25, available in advance online at and at the door.

Historic photos at UMBC
An extraordinary exhibit brings a rich part of history into focus at the Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Shadow and Substance: African American Images from The Burns Archive," which opened Monday and will run through March 19, covers 160 years of rarely seen photography.

From the view of a slave pen in Arlington, Va., to an early 20th-century portrait of a Boy Scout and his mother taken at Lane's Studio in Baltimore, the show opens up a fascinating window into the black experience. The exhibit is open daily, and admission is free. Call 410-455-2270.

Creative Capital taps Cordish
Suzi Cordish, a major player in Baltimore's art scene, has been named chair of the board of directors of Creative Capital in New York. This national nonprofit organization has provided more than $20 million for the work of more than 400 innovative artists over the past decade.

Cordish, who joined the Creative Capital board in 2007, is former president and board chair of Maryland Art Place in Baltimore. She has served on the Maryland Arts Council and on the boards of the Maryland Institute College of Art and Maryland Public Broadcasting Foundation.

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