Summer chamber music
A minifest at the Concert House
Isn't it grand that somebody still performs hard-core classical music in Ann Arbor in the summer? Sure, there's Marilyn Mason's organ recital series during the Summer Festival, and this year there are a couple of other more or less classical concerts by the Kronos Quartet and guitarist Sharon Isbin. And, sure, there are the Choral Union sings and the Ann Arbor Concert Band. I have no wish to slight any of these fine performers, but in comparison with past years' UMS May Festival presentations of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the first couple of Summer Festivals, there is far less hard-core classical music in the summer in Ann Arbor than there used to be.
So isn't it grand that the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, in collaboration with Kerrytown Concert House, is presenting a "MiniFest" of three concerts - June 21, 28, and 30 - devoted to nothing but the hard-core classical repertoire. Very hard core it is: the music ranges across three centuries, from Boccherini's slim but charming eighteenth-century string quintet to contemporary American composer Frederic Rzewski's hard-edged, sharp-cornered Pocket Symphony. But these pieces represent the outer edges. Most of the repertoire is very standard: Ravel's gorgeous piano trio, Debussy's stunningly beautiful late cello sonata, Schubert's deeply soulful Arpeggione Sonata, Mendelssohn's intensely dramatic Piano Trio in D Minor, and Brahms's autumnal clarinet quintet.
This late-spring-or-early-summer collaboration has been going on for six years now, and each event I've attended has nearly filled the concert house - as you might expect with an appealing repertoire and first-class musicians. Violinist Ani Kavafian is a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and her sister Ida was a member of the Beaux Arts Trio. Pianist Ruth Laredo is well known from her recordings of Scriabin and Rachmaninoff, and pianist James Tocco, the festival's artistic director, has had a flourishing international career both as a performer and as a teacher.
I'm especially looking forward to the June 21 program, which features pianist Laredo with cellist Daniel Lee in the Debussy sonata and with violinist Ida Kavafian and cellist Andrés Daz in the Ravel trio.
[Originally published in June, 2002.]