Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music season coming to a close

— Photo courtesy of MVCMS

If you haven’t made it to a Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) concert yet this summer, you’ve missed some very interesting and exciting evenings of music performed by virtuosos from all over the U.S.

The 2012 season program encompassed a range of styles from jazz to contemporary works to well-loved classical selections. This past week’s performances featured the world premiere of a new piece for saxophone, horn, and jazz piano, and last week audiences were treated to a first for the 42-year-old MVCMS: a harpsichord performance.

Other highlights in the 2012 season included a famed all-wind quartet performing an original composition inspired by Josephine Baker and the premiere of a Philip Glass piece by world-class violinist Timothy Fain, for whom the piece was written.

“It’s been one of the most exciting seasons we’ve had,” says MVCMS artistic director Delores Stevens. “We’ve had such a variety. It’s been a very adventurous and exciting summer.”

Luckily, you have one last chance to catch some of the most acclaimed musicians in the field of chamber music, as the Grammy-nominated St. Petersburg Quartet returns to the Island for two concerts on Monday and Tuesday, August 20 and 21. The current ensemble, after playing together for more than 10 years, has attained a place in the top echelons of chamber music ensembles worldwide.

“They’ve been playing together a long time,” Ms. Stevens says. “That’s what makes a difference in a string quartet. They have this recognizable sound.”

Among notable recent performances, the St. Petersburg String Quartet has entertained audiences three times at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and provided the season opener for Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society’s quartet series this year. The Russian expats travel throughout the world.

The group has garnered a wealth of critical acclaim and they have been particularly singled out (understandably, given their pedigree) for their interpretation of Tchaikovsky. That composer’s “Unfinished Quartet” will be among the program for the two Vineyard performances. Ms. Stevens notes that the last time the quartet was here, the members talked to her quite a bit about the “Russian sound.” Of their previous performance of a piece by Shostakovitch, another Russian composer, Ms. Stevens says, “They showed me how the cultural feeling of the Russian people was expressed in that. It’s only natural that they’re doing another Russian piece.”

The quartet will also perform a series by another Russian. This selection, however, is from a contemporary composer, Sulkhan Tsintsadze, in the style of Jewish folk songs. “It’s not a Russian program per se,” says Ms. Stevens. “But we are getting a flavor of the Russian people, with American spirit.” Ms. Stevens notes that the Russian-born quartet members have now been living in the United States for some time.

The two-part program will open up with Bach’s “Chaconne.” With this piece, the MVCMS will have come full circle from their opening concert which included a Philip Glass interpretation of a chaconne – a composition style from the Baroque era. “I think it’s neat that we started with the ‘Chaconne’ by Philip Glass and now we’re ending with the real thing,” Ms. Stevens says. “I like that idea of carrying a thread through.”

The program will close with the celebrated “Piano Quintet” in F minor by Johannes Brahms in which Ms. Stevens, a very acclaimed pianist in her own right, will join the Russian group.

“The Brahms is the big focus,” Ms. Stevens says. “The one masterpiece. He wrote it originally for two pianos but rearranged it for strings, giving it a little more sexy arrangement. It is the major piece in Brahms’s repertoire. It’s the epitome of the piano quartet repertoire.”

A fitting close to a spectacular season from the MVCMS. The next concert the organization will host will be on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Music: MVCMS presents St. Petersburg Quartet, 8 pm, Monday, Aug. 20, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown; Tuesday, Aug. 21, Chilmark Community Center. $35; $30 wish Island Club Card; free for students. For more information, visit or call 508-696-8055.