The Montreal Chamber Music Festival, May 10 to June 2, is in its 17th consecutive year of bringing internationally renowned chamber music to the ears of the city’s music lovers. Read on for some of this year’s highlights that are being presented in the lovely Eglise St-George…
Russian composer Shostakovich enigmatically said that all of his symphonies are tombstones. The quip makes you wonder what he thought about his string quartets. Either way, for four consecutive nights, the world renowned Pacifica String Quartet (pictured above) will perform all 15 of Shostakovich’s string quartets. Before each piece, scholar Wendy Lesser (she just published a book on Shostakovich called Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets) and Richard Turp will engage in a conversation about Shostakovich and his works.
Starting on May 16 at 8pm, the British cellist Colin Carr will play Bach’s complete Cello Suites over two days. Carr has had a long and storied career as a cellist; he now lives in England and teaches at the Royal Academy of Music. Intrigue surrounds this particular piece of music as Bach’s Cello Suites were mostly forgotten until 1890 when a young cellist (Pablo Casals) happened upon the forgotten Grützmacher’s editions in a Spanish second hand bookstore and rescued them from obscurity. This chance encounter revived the works and breathed new life into Bach’s Cello Suites. Carr’s performances will also feature selections by Eric Friesen from his book, The Cello Suites, and a discussion with Richard Turp and Carr himself.
On May 27, one of France’s most beloved Impressionist composers, Maurice Ravel, will be celebrated. Ravel is best known for his composition Bolero, his associations with Stravinsky and Satie and for being a dandy. Virtuoso cellist Robert deMaine (who made his orchestral debut at the ripe age of 10) joins forces with James Ehnes to play a rendition of Ravel’s Sonate. James Ehnes is an esteemed concert violinist who plays a 1715 Stradivarius, on loan from the Fulton Collection. No big deal. Then Pianist Andrew Armstrong will play with James Ehnes and Robert deMaine for an interpretation of Ravel’s Trio.
Béla Bartók is one of Hungary’s most lionized classical composers. Legend has it that, in 1904, when Bartók was vacationing, he heard a Transylvanian nanny sing folk songs to her children, which struck a chord with the composer. It’s understood that this incident was the inspiration for his life long interest in folk music. Bartók subsequently scoured the countryside in an effort to discover Magyar folk music, which became a huge influence on his musical style and informed many of his works. On May 28, James Ehnes plays Bartók’s Sonata, Quartet No. 4, Solo Violin Sonata and Quartet No. 3. Mozart’s lesser-known string quintets will be performed by The Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets who will play with violinist Michael Tree (founding member of Marlboro Trio and Guarnieri Quartet) and Barry Shiffman (co-founder of the St. Lawrence String Quartet) for 3 quintets on May 29 and 31.
If it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing, then the festival’s jazz events are more your beat. May 11 brings Jazz pianist and prodigy Eldar Djangirov who is just 25 but has already released six albums and publicly stunned Dave Brubeck. The Jazz events were curated with the careful attention of the classical events and feature the likes of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Angelo Debarre Quartet. On May 26, Sylvain Luc & Alain Caron, two jazz soloists, will perform together redefining what we think soloists are.
Finally, the closing night finale on June 2 is titled Dvořák in America. The event is an exploration of the late Romantic composer in a four hour double concert focused on Dvořák’s pieces Serenade, Slavonic Dances and his American Piano Suite. The musicians include, among other special guests, The Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets, pianists David Jalbert and gifted young composer, pianist and violinist Conrad Tao. If the final show is representative of the entire program, then this year’s Chamber Music Festival is a coupling of the finest music in history with today’s best musicians, making it an event that can’t be missed.
Montreal Chamber Music Festival, May 10 to June 2, 2012