Classical to jazz, tango to film scores highlight Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music...

Classical to jazz, tango to film scores highlight Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s 44th season

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Old Whaling Church, rear view — File photo by Tim Johnson

Delores Stevens is well connected in the global chamber music scene. Every summer the director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) brings groups with some very enviable credentials to perform before Vineyard audiences.

This month, Ms. Stevens recruited two young ensembles who are fast making names for themselves worldwide. In two separate programs, Vineyard audiences will have the chance to hear virtuoso musicians performing Mozart, Schubert, a few contemporary composers and, to finish it all off, a little Dave Brubeck.

On Monday, July 14 and Tuesday, July 15, the Calder Quartet makes its Martha’s Vineyard debut. The Los Angeles-based string quartet was recently awarded the prestigious 2014 Avery Fisher Career Grant. The quartet has been called “outstanding” and “superb” by The New York Times.

The Calder Quartet, which hails from Los Angeles, joins the Martha's Vineyard Chamber Music Society for two shows next week.
The Calder Quartet, which hails from Los Angeles, joins the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society for two shows next week.

The quartet has performed at Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Edinburgh International Festival, and Austria’s Esterhazy Palace. They debuted a number of new compositions at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles and earlier this year performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The group of young musicians has toured with rock bands and have been featured on KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” “The Late Show with David Letterman,” “The Tonight Show,” and “Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel.”

Ms. Stevens, who spends her winters performing and teaching in southern California, is a strong advocate for new composers and has been following the Calder Quartet since its inception in 1998. “I became aware of them because when they were first formed they did a lot of new music,” she said. “They were very adventurous. They had a unique quality that was quite obvious from the beginning. It’s really been a joy to watch them grow and play with different orchestras.”

In the two concerts on the Vineyard, the Calder Quartet presents a program that represents a mix of eras. The performances will start off with a chamber music piece by Mozart. “Mozart’s piano concertos usually have orchestra accompaniment,” Ms. Stevens said. “But he wrote several that were intended to be accompanied by a quartet. This piece is one of my favorites. I think it’s one of the most beautiful concertos that he wrote.”

Mozart will be followed by Schubert’s famous “Death and the Maiden,” one of the pillars of the chamber music repertoire that has been featured in a number of films. A more contemporary piece by Leoš Janáček will complete the program. The Czech composer drew from Eastern European folk music in creating his lively compositions.

“There’s going to be a little bit of every kind of music,” she continued, “from classical to the romantic period to more contemporary.”

Ms. Stevens generally makes an effort to mix up her programs in order to introduce audiences to a range of styles. Such will be the case with the second program of the summer season, when The Quartet San Francisco visits the Island for two performances on July 21 and July 22.

Grammy nominees for their last three CD releases and International Tango competition winners, the Quartet San Francisco mixes up jazz, tango, and contemporary classical, making them a perfect fit for MVCMS, which despite being a 44-year-old organization, seeks to promote new music and various styles in order to introduce audiences to chamber music and continue the education of aficionados.

The concert starts off with Samuel Barber’s haunting “String Quartet Op. 11,” made famous in recent times through its inclusion in a number of movie soundtracks including those for “Platoon” and “The Elephant Man.”

The program also includes a swing number by Gordon Goodwin, known for his many film and TV scores; a piece by jazz, film, and TV composer Patrick Williams; and works by Peter Schickele, aka P.D.Q. Bach.

Drawing on the Quartet San Francisco’s strong jazz roots, the group will finish up with Dave Brubeck’s famous “Take Five,” which has been featured in numerous films and served as the theme for the NBC’s “The Today Show” for many years. That piece, like most of the others that make up the program, will be familiar to many audience members due to their commercial history and mainstream appeal.

Ms. Stevens hopes to attract new — and younger — audiences to MVCMS through her commitment to including work by contemporary composers and more widely accessible genres. While she spends her winters in Los Angeles performing, teaching, and serving on the boards of a number of music organizations, while on the Vineyard Ms. Stevens focuses solely on bringing world-renowned musicians and eclectic programming to Island audiences.

“I’m really concentrated on the concerts here, which is kind of a relief,” she said. “From here I can focus completely on the music…and taking the occasional walk in the woods.”

Music: M.V. Chamber Music Society with Calder Quartet present From the Halls of Carnegie and Disney, 8 pm, Monday, July 14 at Old Whaling Church, Edgartown; Tuesday, July 15, Chilmark Community Center. $35; $30 with Our Island Club card; free for students. For more information, visit mvcms.org.