Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society starts summer season

Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society starts summer season

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From left: Michael Wayne, Delores Stevens, Nancy Rogers, and Blaise Dejardin performing "Beethoven Trio Op. 11" for clarinet, cello, and piano. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

If last weekend’s two concerts presented by the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) are any indication of what the organization has in store this summer, music lovers are in for a treat.

A 43-year-old group that brings world-class musicians to the Vineyard for concerts featuring a mix of classical and contemporary works, MVCMS will host five sets of performances during July and August. Among the participating musicians are acclaimed soloists and members of some of the world’s premiere orchestras. The composers whose works will be presented range from Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, and Ravel to Chick Corea and Benjamin Britten.

Last Thursday at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, artistic director Delores Stevens and violist Lila Brown presented a brief “teaser” concert featuring music that would be included in the annual Spring Concert. Ms. Stevens used the opportunity to inaugurate a baby grand piano that was donated by Arline Lloyd, the widow of television writer David Lloyd of Los Angeles and Martha’s Vineyard, to the MVCMS, which subsequently lent it on a long-term basis to the M.V. Film Center. The piano enables the theater to host a variety of musical events.

For the Sunday afternoon Spring Concert at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown, a trio of musicians joined Ms. Stevens in a performance that included works by classical composers Beethoven and Cesar Franck in the first half, and contemporary works in the second half, including a lovely tango from Argentinian Astor Piazzola. That piece was followed by a very short jazzy clarinet and cello duet from Guillaume Connesson, and a three-part arrangement from Alfred Uhl, who Ms. Stevens described in her introduction as “a composer nobody’s ever heard of.”

The selections were appropriately uplifting, lively, and even playful at times with a clarinet adding a welcome dose of brightness to the program. The visiting musicians including two current Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) members: Michael Wayne, clarinet; Blaise Dejardin, cello; and one BSO veteran, violist Lila Brown, founder and artistic director of the Music From Salem chamber music festival in New York state.

These world-class musicians presented an excellent example of the virtuoso artists that Ms. Stevens is able to attract to the Vineyard. Ms. Stevens herself is a very accomplished and in demand pianist who performs in and around her winter home of Los Angeles as well as points around the globe in the off season.

This past February, Ms. Stevens received the Living the Legacy Award from the Young Musicians Foundation at an event honoring composer John Williams at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. This year she will participate, along with her celebrated colleagues, in four of the five sets of MVCMS concerts.

The Spring Concert was a showcase for two of the things that MVCMS is known for: bringing illustrious musicians from all over the globe to Vineyard audiences, and presenting a wide range of music, from classical to contemporary, from jazz to avant garde to compositions inspired by traditional folk music from a variety of cultures.

“This summer is really pretty exceptional,” Ms. Stevens said in a phone interview. “We’re having a really wide range of music — all the way from a Mozart concert to a Britten concert. We’ve got a lot of stuff for everyone.”

Along with a range of offerings, two singers are included. A celebration of the music of 20th century composer Benjamin Britten, who Ms. Stevens calls “one of my favorite composers in the world – ever,” features tenor Richard Edgar-Wilson, a renowned soloist and premiere interpreter of the music of Britten.

A set of performances in August called Vineyard Pops! will feature soprano Karen Benjamin, performing songs by George Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein, and a Broadway medley. “We rarely have two singers in the summer,” Ms. Stevens said.

Sometimes the scheduling of a particular program is determined in part by the availability of a sought-after performer. Case in point, July’s all Mozart program. “We get some of the top players from famous orchestras,” said Ms. Stevens. “We’ve never had clarinetist Franklin Cohen before. He’s got a worldwide reputation.”

Among the selections included in “Ingenious Amadeus” are two pieces that feature a clarinet. Ms. Stevens calls one of these compositions, a clarinet quintet, “one of the jewels of the chamber music repertoire.” She is thrilled to have recruited Mr. Cohen, principal clarinetist for the Cleveland Orchestra, who has contributed to a Grammy award-winning recording.

Rounding out the summer series are a duo of opening concerts with the Harlem String Quartet, who have performed for MVCMS twice before. Ms. Stevens points out that the globally recognized quartet, which has recently undergone personnel changes, was featured two days in a row on the cover of The Boston Globe last year for their series of concerts for children. The quartet will perform the work of Haydn, Schubert, and jazz great Chick Corea, with whom they have performed in the past. MVCMS will announce the winner of their annual scholarship for outstanding music student at that concert.

Finishing up the 2013 season are two concerts called “Infinity Goes to Broadway” featuring the work of Duke Ellington and selections from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” as performed by the Infinity Brass Quintet from Amherst.

For more information about the organization, call 508-696-8055 or visit mvcms.org.