Chamber Music Society hosts Thanksgiving-time tunes

Violinist Stephanie Chase, one of the guest musicians at this weekend's performance. — Photo Courtesy Mike Duckworth

Every year the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society hosts a special Thanksgiving weekend concert. “Our regular season is the summer program,” says MVCMS artistic director and pianist Delores Stevens. “We thought it was important to do a concert that’s just for the community. This is sort of our treat that we put together for the Island.”

And though the concert will be presented at a price reduced from the summer series, the talent is just as impressive as that recruited for any of the July or August programming. As a matter of fact, all three of the musicians who will be joining Ms. Stevens onstage have taken part in the summer concerts for years.

“This is the third time we’ve played together at Thanksgiving time,” says Ms. Stevens. The lineup includes Stephanie Chase on violin, Scott Woolweaver on viola, and Scott Kluksdahl on cello. All three are seasoned professionals.

Ms. Chase has been praised as “one of the violin greats of our era,” and her recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto was hailed as “one of the 20 most outstanding performances in the work’s recorded history.” Mr. Woolweaver has forged a reputation for his playing of contemporary music, and has premiered a number of new works, including some written specifically for him. Mr. Kluksdahl has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in venues all over the world, and is also a much-lauded teacher of music.

Ms. Stevens herself is a much-in-demand pianist who spends her winters performing in and around her winter home of Los Angeles, as well as traveling all over for concerts. Ms. Stevens has been honored with a number of awards, including the Living the Legacy Award from the Young Musicians Foundation and recognition from the National Association of Composers for her “achievements as one of the most important artists to further the cause and influence of contemporary music.”

For the Thanksgiving-weekend program, Ms. Stevens has selected works by three 19th century composers, Johannes Brahms, Antonin Dvorák, and Felix Mendelssohn. “The music is all from the same time period, but they’re all so different,” says Ms. Stevens, who always tries to provide a mix of styles. “Dvorák’s piece is ethnic, peasant music. Brahms is so elegant.” Ms. Stevens is particularly excited about performing an early work of Mendelssohn’s. “We’re playing a piece that I don’t think anyone has ever heard before,” she said. “A sonata he wrote when he was 10 years old. It’s so amazing. He’s a real genius. Even as a child, he was a precocious genius. He could play the piano, viola, and violin. He wrote an opera was he was 11.”

Of Mendelssohn’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, which is included in the upcoming program, Ms. Stevens says, “It’s typified by his sense of abandon and fast notes. It’s so fun.”

Ms. Stevens and Mr. Woolweaver will also present a free recital at the West Tisbury library on Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 4 pm. The program is titled, “Woolweaver and Stevens Taking Bridge to Brahms.”

Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society annual Thanksgiving Concert on Saturday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $20. Students free.