After launching its 48th summer season with a jam-packed July calendar, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) wraps up its annual concert festival with two outstanding August programs. Along with three well-received concert lineups last month, the group held its first-ever gala concert fundraiser, “Brio, Bliss, and Boffo,” at the Old Whaling Church.
The July 22 event joined local singers with Metropolitan Opera artists for a rich mixture ranging from opera to Broadway. Island composer Philip Dietterich’s original creation, “Strings, Waters and Winds,” along with the keyboard artistry of four pianists, rounded out the concert program in style.
The group originally founded as the Montagnana Trio in 1970 by cellist Caroline Worthington, John Gates on clarinet, and Delores Stevens as pianist has grown and expanded over the decades, bringing internationally known guest musicians to play here each summer.
Stevens, who has continued through the decades as artistic director and festival pianist, works with visiting players to plan programs that characteristically mix composers representing a variety of styles and periods. Concerts are performed Monday evenings at the Old Whaling Church and Tuesday evenings at the Chilmark Community Center, where the group had its beginnings nearly 50 years ago.
Bringing three familiar faces back to the Island stage, next week’s concerts on August 6 and 7 feature the Martha’s Vineyard Piano Quartet, an audience favorite. Featuring Boston-based viola virtuoso Scott Woolweaver, violinist Stephanie Chase, and cellist Jan Müller-Szeraws, along with Ms. Stevens on the keyboard, the talented group plays here frequently in the summer series and at Thanksgiving weekend concerts.
A distinguished musician who has played with some 170 orchestras around the globe, Chase is considered a violin great, according to the program, and her interpretations are praised for their “elegance, diversity, vitality, and great imagination” by the Boston Globe.
Müller-Szeraws toured through China as guest principal cellist with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. He is cellist of Boston Musica Viva, artist in residence at the College of the Holy Cross, and currently teaches at Phillips Academy Andover.
Opening the program is Clara Schumann’s “Piano Trio in G minor,” called “a unique, beautifully crafted, and intimate masterpiece” by French horn player Paul Stevens in the program notes. A pianist herself, the composer includes some striking keyboard passages, though always making sure to maintain balance with the other voices.
Far less familiar is the intriguing “Sonata in C minor for viola and piano” of York Bowen, a contemporary English composer and pianist who appeared caught between modern and Romantic styles, according to program notes. The sonata, written when the composer was only 20 years old, moves through a gamut of moods from rich and expressive to a spirited dance-like segment haunted by darker undertones.
Finally, Gabrielle Fauré’s “Piano Quartet in G minor” offers opportunity for all the instruments to shine, especially the piano that commands center stage again and again. Emotions are high, tempos insistent during much of the sonata. The third slower movement is known for the suggestion of church bells, echoed by the instruments throughout a gentle reverie.
The enthusiastically titled “Fantastic Festival Finale” on August 13 and 14 promises to live up to its name as three distinguished musicians with close family ties will take the stage for a colorful, multifaceted soundfest.
Highlighting this season-ending program will be renowned clarinetist Franklin Cohen, who until recently was the longtime principal clarinetist for the Cleveland Orchestra, widely recognized as “one of the most outstanding clarinetists of his generation.”
Joining Cohen, his violinist daughter, Diana Cohen, has performed globally with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and other ensembles, and was named concertmaster of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra in 2012.
Pianist Roman Rabinovich, who is married to Diana Cohen, made his debut with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at age 10, and has been featured soloist with many orchestras worldwide.
Their eclectic and dynamic program ranges from Haydn’s “Piano Sonata in C Major” through a more modern landscape, beginning with a Poulenc clarinet sonata. Commissioned by famed clarinetist Benny Goodman, Bartok’s “Contrasts” opens with excitement, moves into a quieter, eerie second movement, and is topped off by an upbeat finale mixing folk dance and jazz themes. “Three Fantasy Pieces” by Robert Schumann highlight clarinet and piano exploring many changes of mood and key before a spirited conclusion.
Finally, the 1995 high-energy composition “Road Movies for Violin and Piano” by John Adams closes the season, sure to wake up any yawning listeners and send them off on Island roads inspired.
Along with presenting high-quality classical concerts for Island audiences, the society has long been dedicated to expanding musical opportunities for local youngsters. Some 200 elementary and middle school students take lessons through the school strings program, and many are provided instruments free of charge.
An Artist-in-Residence program brings professional musicians to Island schools to work with students and teachers. A yearly MVCMS scholarship assists a promising Island student in pursuing college-level musical education. In addition, all children and students may attend concerts with no admission fee.
A festive reception follows each concert, with audience members invited to enjoy refreshments while socializing with the musicians in an informal setting.
Tickets $35, $30 with Island Club Card. Children and students admitted free.