Piano is key

Chamber Music Society’s upcoming concert offers All Star Piano Quartet.


The Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) launched its 49th season Monday with a Summer Festival that will go on to offer three more fine, varied programs featuring an array of distinguished and talented visiting artists. As she has continued to do every year, festival pianist and artistic director Delores Stevens will be on the program, performing next Tuesday, July 23, as part of the All Star Piano Quartet.

Upbeat as ever after decades being part of these annual summer concerts since beginning as pianist for the Montagnana Trio with cellist Caroline Worthington and clarinetist John Gates, Delores Stevens welcomed this season enthusiastically.

“Join us for some great musical experiences,” wrote Stevens in the program, outlining the summer plans as she and the society countdown to the gala 50th anniversary celebration next year.

Along with David Behnke stepping into the role of president, previously held by Nora Nevin, this year is marked by several changes in the festival logistics.

The longstanding format of five programs, each played in two venues for a total of 10 concerts, has been trimmed to four separate programs. Two will be held at the Chilmark Community Center, two more at the Old Whaling Church.

This summer’s concerts will begin at 7:30 pm, one half-hour earlier than customary. Ticket prices have seen a slight increase, from $35 to $40.

Executive director Louisa Gould commented that this price is still affordable for an evening of excellent music. She emphasized that all MVCMS concerts are free for children and students.

“We have to adjust to the times and the overall musical landscape,” Gould commented. “But we will never cut down on the quality of the music we’re doing.”

“This summer’s musical focus will be on three string quartets and one piano quartet,” Stevens noted. “All players will be familiar to our regular audience, since they have appeared on our stage several times, and the response is a major reason I am bringing them back to you.”

As always, concerts will be followed by a reception where audience members may visit with musicians while enjoying refreshments in a casual setting.

Along with the festival, the Brio Bliss Boffo musical benefit is back for a second star-studded year. The fundraiser at the Old Whaling Church on July 29 at 7:30 pm will present a packed program of exceptional musicians from the Island and beyond, including the cast of this summer’s Wendy Taucher Dance Opera Theater’s production of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus.” According to Gould, donations are sought to help keep the event accessible to all at modest prices.

Next Tuesday’s, July 23, Chilmark Community Center performance welcomes back Scott Woolweaver, viola, a longtime veteran of the MVCMS programs. Along with Stevens at the keyboard, the quartet includes Alyssa Park, violin, and cellist Timothy Loo, both from the acclaimed Lyris Quartet.

Beethoven’s “String Trio No. 5 in c minor” opens Tuesday’s program with intense drama and energy. “The virtuosity is almost savage, the tremolos fierce, the pace tremendous,” writes Dr. Paul Stevens in program notes.

Next, a 1917 violin sonata by Claude Debussy brings a soothing shift to a more serene and lyrical atmosphere, despite the fact that the composer’s personal life and the wider world were tumultuous. The three-movement piece showcases inventive and graceful interactions between violin and piano.

The evening concludes with Johannes Brahms’s “Piano Quartet in c minor,” op. 60, a composition believed to be suffused with the lovelorn composer’s angst-ridden yearnings for his forbidden sweetheart, the married Clara Schumann. Especially compelling is the recurring two-note “Clara theme,” and a tender cello solo, a brief respite from stormy emotions.

“The inimitable Harlem String Quartet is returning once again with their always stimulating program, “ writes Stevens of the August 3 concert. A unique Vineyard favorite, the group received thunderous accolades at its 2017 concert that featured Cuban guest pianist Aldo López-Gavilán in a breathtaking performance.

The ensemble’s concert at the Old Whaling Church offers a colorfully varied program including Brahms, Debussy, and a distinctively Cuban piece by Guido López-Gavilán. Players are Ilmar Gavilán, violin, Melissa White, violin Jaime Amador, viola, and Felix Umansky, cello.

The Verona Quartet closes the 2019 season at the Chilmark Community Center on Tuesday, August 13. Violinists Jonathan Ong and Dorothy Ro join Abigail Rojansky, viola, and cellist Jonathan Dormand for a program of Beethoven, Szymanowski, and Ravel.

Vineyarders will recognize the ensemble that presented a moving concert at the Old Whaling Church Memorial Day weekend in honor of the late Nikki Langer, a longtime friend and supporter of the organization who died in December.

A major mission of the society remains its youth music education program under the direction of Kim Baumhofer. School string instruction is offered to students, and more than 60 instruments are available on loan. This year, a pilot program in cello instruction was offered thanks to generous grant from the Permanent Endowment of Martha’s Vineyard. The group hopes to continue and expand the cello program if future funding can be secured.


For information or tickets, visit mvcms.org.