Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Debussy Quartet - the charming Frenchmen

The Debussy Quartet presented two very impressive concerts on February 6 & 7, of which most of you probably saw at least one. You may not have known about the lecture/performance they presented for SOU music majors and the public that Friday afternoon ("convocation"). This convocation presentation was one of the best we've had in quite some time — the group struck the perfect balance of instructive comments and helpful samples. They discussed the similarities between the quartets of Ravel and the little-known French composer Bonnal, and used demonstrations to show the odd meter in two of the movements. 

One of the more exciting moments that weekend came when the cellist Allain came to me at 6:30 p.m. the evening of the concert wondering if there was a cello he could borrow. As he put it, "My cello does not like Oregon." Due to the differences in humidity, his cello began cracking in several places during their rehearsal, and he was worried that it might not make it through the concert. To our relief, one of CMC's patrons, Judy Bjorlie (principal cellist with the Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra), agreed to let Allain borrow her cello "just in case." Happily his cello hung in there and stabilized, but he kept Judy's cello through the Saturday concert just in case — he was convinced if he gave it back earlier, his cello would figure out he didn't have a back up and start cracking again!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Quartetto Gelato's last day

Tonight was the closing concert for Quartetto Gelato's residency with Chamber Music Concerts, and what a week it's been! The quartet performed for SOU music majors this afternoon, and then for a nearly full house this evening. The audience included CMC members, sponsors, students from area schools (some of whom had seen the group at programs this week and came to hear them again), and many people who were unable to get tickets to last weekend's performance.

Quartetto Gelato was in rare form this evening, and the audience jumped to their feet several times, most notably for Alexander Sevastian's incredible performance of Bach's Toccata in d minor. I could hear gasps around me during his performance — it is surprising to hear such virtuosity on the accordion. I had no idea what the instrument's potential was until I saw it in Alex's hands. He plays with impressive facility and musicality, despite his affectionate description of his instrument as a "50 pound refrigerator."

Few would have guessed it from his high-energy, humorous showmanship and beautiful performances, but Peter De Sotto, the violinist/tenor and unofficial leader of Quartetto Gelato, has been suffering with a throat infection all week. I spoke to him after the tonight's performance and he said he took a turn for the worse just before tonight's concert, and felt like he was practically crawling out on stage. His performance was wonderful despite his worsening cold — he's a true professional to be able to hide it so well — and we hope he recovers soon. 

After the concert, Quartetto Gelato (minus Peter, who was going directly to bed!) headed over to the Standing Stone for post-concert pizza, beer, and a well-deserved celebration after a successful residency week. I hope you enjoyed their activities and concerts. A big thanks again to Jim Collier, our generous Residency and Season Sponsor, and Poppie Beveridge at the Schoolhouse Retreat & Cultural Center for housing the artists.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The residency continues...

Quartetto Gelato's Wednesday afternoon featured a program for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) members, and anyone else who could fit into the Meese Auditorium at the SOU Art Building. The program went very well, and was marred for me only when an angry man tried to run me over in his car as I saved a parking spot for QG! OLLI members rewarded QG with a well-deserved standing ovation. The group was alternately charming and hilarious, and even the dry, dead acoustics of the auditorium couldn't dampen the enthusiasm of the performers or audience.

Today the group presented a lecture for SOU business majors in the afternoon. After playing a few numbers, QG talked about the business aspects of their ensemble — the importance of having a "hook," distinguishing the group's product from that of others, reinventing their image, dealing with agents and presenters, the decline of CDs and the embrace of downloaded music (both legal and illegal!), and how they manage the logistics of their constant touring. After the lecture, the business students were treated to a reception with an abundance of Italian food in QG's honor.

Photos to come...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Accordion Master Class by Alexander Sevastian

Tonight audience members and accordion enthusiasts were treated to a master class in the true sense of the word "master." Alexander Sevastian, winner of four International Accordion Competitions in Russia, Norway, and the U.S., coached three performers at the Music Recital Hall at SOU. The master class was part of Quartetto Gelato's week-long residency with CMC, sponsored by Jim Collier. Alexander had already wowed the audience at QG's concert Saturday night — his musicality and technique are incredible to behold — and seeing him work with accordion players and talk to them about these performance aspects was very rewarding.

Now a Canadian citizen, Alex is originally from Belarus and has been playing accordion since age seven. He studied in Minsk and then Moscow, and has since performed as a soloist in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, Serbia, Canada, and the U.S. Hear a sample of Alex's virtuosic performances.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Welcome to Behind the Scenes

Welcome to Chamber Music Concerts new blog, Behind the Scenes. Here you will find inside information on CMC and our visiting artists, and photos of our groups, receptions, education programs, and other events. Feel free to make comments — we'd love to hear from you!

Quartetto Gelato!

Quartetto Gelato put on a terrific performance Saturday night. They exude energy and excitement, with humor and virtuosity to spare. The concert sold out weeks in advance, and I had a wait list of 50! Many thanks to Ilana Rubenfeld, Primary Sponsor, and Anne Decker, Tom & Karen O'Rourke, and People's Bank of Commerce, Associate Sponsors. 

Many of you may remember their concert on our series in 2006, and that the personnel was a bit different. If you remember their last visit, you certainly remember Cynthia Steljes, their phenomenal oboist. In a terrible tragedy, Cynthia passed away only months after that performance due to pleural mesothelioma, a rare form of asbestos-related lung cancer. The group has carried on in her honor since that time, and continues to tour throughout the world.

Here are some photos from Saturday night's performance: