It’s that season again to let you know how much we’ve cherished another great year at Friends of Chamber Music and look forward to the one to come!
2016 was not only a time of great music, but also a time to appreciate those who gave it to us and passed on. The deaths of Pierre Boulez, Neville Marriner, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Peter Maxwell-Davies, Zoltan Kocsis and Pauline Oliveros, amongst others, made us appreciate their contributions to classical music even more. On my personal list, prominent cultural figures including David Bowie, Prince, producer George Martin, and poet/novelist/singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, as well as actor Gene Wilder and comedian Ronnie Corbett all passed away as well. However, thanks to the wonders of audio and video recording technology, we get to cherish their work forever.
It is a different technology that allowed us to present you with concerts by contemporary musicians performing music by composers from centuries past to decades past. January 2016 we enjoyed two visits by Philip Setzer, first as the violinist with the Han Finckel Setzer Trio, and second with his colleagues in the Emerson String Quartet. Both were performances of sufficient dynamism (coupled with the incredible blend of instrumental voices in both ensembles) to keep fingers and toes warm in mid-winter.
There was an extraordinary event during the Emerson String Quartet’s intense and enrapturing presentation of Béla Bartók’s fourth quartet. Early into the pages of the final movement, violinist Eugene Drucker’s bow snapped off near the tip! I’ve never seen something as dramatic as a bow actually snapping and breaking in a concert before. After a break to replace the bow, the quartet began the final movement again, completing a fabulous performance, despite the shock of the damaged bow!
In March, the Mandelring Quartet returned, even though some of their luggage, including their stage clothes, did not make it on time. The concert featured a debut for us, the second quartet by German/Jewish composer Berthold Goldschmidt. Goldschmidt is one of the fortunate ones who escaped the Third Reich by moving to England. Late in life he befriended the Mandelring Quartet, so their take on this music, written in 1936, has a direct connection with the composer. And all of us were swept along by the dynamism of this performance.
We also enjoyed two visits by the Takács Quartet this calendar year, with the March visit including a taut and introspective take on Dmitri Shostakovich’s third quartet. This was another turning point in hearing Shostakovich given a fine and remarkably different reading from the Russian tradition. The group’s second concert for us on December 4 was an all-Beethoven event that garnered lots of buzz from audience members in the post-concert reception.
Our 2016-2017 season has included a pair of fine performances of early music by Arnold Schoenberg, first, his second quartet played by the Escher Quartet (on Schoenberg’s birthday), and Transfigured Night for string sextet performed by a special group from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. We’re thrilled so many of you let us know how much you enjoyed these works. And then there were the works of Johannes Brahms; his clarinet trio performed by the Israeli Chamber Project, and the first string sextet played by the CMS string sextet. Both are works of such lyrical beauty and sweetness that our audiences were swept to their feet at the conclusion of both concerts by the combination of the music and its interpretation by these artists.
We finish 2016 by looking ahead, and to thank you for your continued support, we make a special offer: pick up either or both Trio Packs of tickets. Option #1 gives concert-goers the chance to sample the shared beauties and musical differences in works by composers from Paris and Vienna at different times. Option #2 offers three opportunities to enjoy the elegance of music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (as well as Bartók, Janáček, and others).
I look forward to seeing you all in 2017 to experience the joys of live classical chamber music played by some of the world’s greatest concert artists here in Vancouver. Best wishes to everybody for a festive season with loved ones and good music!