Monday, June 27, 2011

NCMF: The sounds of summer ... barely

Okay, Memorial Day has come and gone, and so has the solstice, meaning, at least for  crusty, fatalistic New Englanders, that summer, which officially arrived a couple of days ago, although you certainly can't tell by the weather, is almost over and we can move on to other things, like that big 10th anniversary season for the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, and, on the horizon, the impending winter. The festival, which runs from Aug. 13 to 20, just before the cold winds blow, will bring back the popular Baroque concert, which has been sidelined for the past couple of seasons. The program has not been announced, but will feature hot-shot performers like harpsichordist Dongsok Shin, from the renowned New York early music group Rebel, and violinist Leah Gale Nelson, who specializes in historical performance. The festival will also celebrate the centennial of composer Samuel Barber, putting the spotlight on two of his most beloved works — the String Quartet Opus 11, which includes the famous "Adagio for strings," and "Dover Beach" for string quartet and voice. Also on the program is Beethoven's String Quartet in C# Minor, Opus 131 and Janacek's String Quartet No. 1, the Moravian composer's "neurotic quartet," as NCMF Artistic Director David Yang puts it, first performed by the NCMF quartet five years ago, and Ravel's Sonata for violin and cello, which Yang calls the composer's "sexy and jazzy duo." 

But the centerpiece of the festival, as least as far as local folks are concerned, will likely be the new piece by composer-in-residence Kile Smith. "Plain Truths" is a song cycle that incorporates music, acting and vocals, using texts from Newburyport's most famous residents, including self-anointed "Lord" Timothy Dexter, as well as 18th-century musician Daniel Bayley, gothic novelist Harriet Prescott Spofford and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison. The title comes from Dexter’s "A Pickle for the Knowing Ones," or "Plain Truths in a Homepsun Dress," an 1802 work that is part political screed, part sermon and part diatribe against anyone who owed him money and, according to the composer, "one of the most remarkable writings ever produced." The piece, a follow-up to last year's “Thrice Blest,” a string trio based on a tune by 18th-century Newbury composer Daniel Bayley, is written for baritone and string quartet, and will be performed by Metropolitan Opera bass/baritone Jeremy Galyon.

The NCMF quartet returns intact, with Yang, Grammy-nominated violinist Adela Pena, Carolyn Stinson from the famed Lark Quartet and David Ehrlich from the Audubon Quartet.

As in the past, the festival will include several free events — open rehearsals, lectures, as well as a free open air show on Inn Street. Definitely something to look  forward to. And, looking on the bright side, something we crusty, cranky New Englanders rarely do, you gotta remember, spring is right around the corner.

For a complete schedule, check out NCMF web.

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