Michigan music faculty
The Chamber Players' casual excellence
From the September, 2007 issue
All people who regularly attend classical music concerts in Ann Arbor know the excellence of the U-M music school faculty and student performers. They have gone to the piano-shaped music school building to hear the brass's polished brilliance, the violinists' searing intensity, and the pianists' blazing virtuosity. They've been to the small box-shaped Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre to hear the singers' lyric beauties and to the big box-shaped Hill Auditorium to hear the orchestras' dramatic enormities and the choruses' epic immensities. And no matter where or when they've heard these concerts, these patrons always appreciate the time, care, and dedication the performers put into preparing for them.
But the real measure of the excellence of the music school performers is not how long they labor preparing a concert but how quickly they can put together a concert when they have to. Take, for example, the Michigan Chamber Players, the music faculty ensemble whose concert at Rackham Auditorium on Sunday, September 16, opens the University Musical Society's 2007-2008 season. Only one month before the concert, neither the UMS nor the music school knew exactly which Chamber Players were playing - and that was because the Chamber Players didn't know yet, either.
When we contacted violinist Andrew Jennings about the concert in mid-August, he responded just hours before our deadline. "I have held back in replying, hoping that the last 'shoes' would drop into place," he wrote, "but no such luck." The program as it now stands includes a very interesting sonata for two violins by the Belgian violinist-composer Eugne Ysae performed by Yehonatan Berick and Stephen Shipps - two other members of the music school's celebrated string faculty. According to Jennings, the sonata was discovered fairly recently and has received only a few performances because of the score's inaccessibility and the work's tremendous difficulty. "Ysae's six solo violin sonatas are regarded as among the pinnacles of technical achievement on the violin," wrote Jennings, "and this piece is very
much in that line."
Jennings himself is the violinist for the program's other announced work: French composer Gabriel Fauré's Piano Quartet in G Minor. "This is the less-well-known one but a marvelous piece," wrote Jennings. "The performers are myself, [violist] Yizhak Schotten, and [pianist] Katherine Collier, but the cellist remains unconfirmed as of today. Also in flux is the opener (the originally scheduled work has had to be canceled) and I think I shouldn't even put down my guess for the replacement for fear of getting incorrect info out there."
Whatever the opener and whoever the cellist, however, I predict that the Chamber Players' concert will be excellent.
[Review published September 2007]
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