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May 2014

Spoleto 2014:
Chamber Music (Music)
Written By: 
Jonathan Gray

May 23-June 8, Dock Street Theatre, 135 Church St., Friday, May 23, 1 p.m., then daily, 11 a.m., & 1 p.m., Prices vary.

 


There’s a reason that Spoleto’s Chamber Music series is so often called “a festival favorite”—it is the most consistently entertaining and enlightening program. And it has been since its inception at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, in 1960, when festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti created the series of informal midday chamber concerts. Menotti recruited American classical pianist Charles Wadsworth to direct the programs, incorporating his musical knowledge as well as his relaxed, and often humorous, introductions to the performers and compositions. Audiences quickly learned that they need not know in advance which pieces would be performed but simply trust where the talented and affable artistic director led them.

When Spoleto Festival USA began here in 1977, Wadsworth brought the successful series with him—mixing old standards with newer, more daring and challenging compositions—and for 32 years lovingly and expertly remained at its helm. In 2010, he passed the torch to Geoff Nuttall, first violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, which had been performing in the series for more than a decade.

Although he had an enormous pair of shoes to fill, Nuttall has done an amazing job of keeping the essence of the series intact while instilling his own vision with wit and enthusiasm. This season’s programs promise to continue to break new ground while still honoring past traditions. Nuttall has boldly pre-released the schedule of pieces to be performed, allowing festival-goers to schedule their days so as not to miss, for example, the Shostakovich String Quartet No. 7, if they so desire.

There’s a reason that Spoleto’s Chamber Music series is so often called “a festival favorite”—it is the most consistently entertaining and enlightening program. And it has been since its inception at the Festival dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, Italy, in 1960, when festival founder Gian Carlo Menotti created the series of informal midday chamber concerts. Menotti recruited American classical pianist Charles Wadsworth to direct the programs, incorporating his musical knowledge as well as his relaxed, and often humorous, introductions to the performers and compositions. Audiences quickly learned that they need not know in advance which pieces would be performed but simply trust where the talented and affable artistic director led them.

On five of its 11 programs, the current season will feature music by living composers, including the world premiere of Spoleto Chamber Music alumnus Stephen Prutsman’s Color Preludes for Piano Quintet. Music from past masters such as Schubert, Telemann, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Verdi, and Brahms will also be performed alongside works by lesser-known composers from the past 300 years. Trust that you will leave any of the performances well-educated and well-entertained.

String Theorist:
As first violinist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Geoff Nuttall is no stranger to the festival. The renowned quartet, which he cofounded in 1989, has been performing in the chamber series since 1995.

The ensemble quickly made a name for itself with passionate interpretations of standard quartet repertoire as well as a willingness to present cutting-edge new works. It has performed the world over and received numerous accolades and awards, including two Grammy nominations for a recording of Osvaldo Golijov’s Yiddishbbuk.

Taking over as director of Spoleto’s  chamber series in 2010, Nuttall has brought an exciting new perspective to an already successful program. His genuine joy and love for the music he performs is contagious; his wide-eyed interest in talking about the compositions and composers inspiring; and his ability to balance reverence and irreverence in one performance truly unique.
 

Eat & Drink:
Breakfast/Coffee: Broad Street Market (310 Broad St.), Gaulart & Maliclet (98 Broad St.)
Lunch:) Bull Street Gourmet (120 King St.), Husk (76 Queen St.), SNOB (192 E. Bay St.)

 

 




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Photo by Eric Cheng

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