Chamber festival filled with performers’ favorites

One of the highlights of pianist André-Michel Schub’s year is to program the Saratoga Chamber Music
The Escher Quartet
The Escher Quartet

One of the highlights of pianist André-Michel Schub’s year is to program the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival, which opens Sunday.

“I love the music both to program and to play it,” Schub said. “I hope to get people to love it as much as I.”

To that end, Schub checked first with all the musicians who will perform as to what their favorite pieces were. Although most offered some suggestions, he said, the Escher Quartet, which will open the festival, asked him what he wanted to hear.

“I chose the most interesting,” Schub said. “I wanted these four players to be heard. They’re a young and hot string quartet and are on a roll.”

The Escher is made up of four American musicians: violinists Adam Barnett-Hart and Aaron Boyd; violist Pierre Lapointe; and cellist Dane Johansen. Although they’ve played at such prestigious venues as Washington’s Kennedy Center, the Louvre in Paris, London’s BBC Proms and Wigmore Hall, the last three years have been focused on their residency as artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s CMS Two program.

Saratoga Chamber Music Festival

WHERE: Spa Little Theatre, Saratoga Spa State Park, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: 2:15 Aug. 4, 11 and 18; 8 p.m. Aug. 6, 13 and 20

HOW MUCH: $45 – $40

MORE INFO: 584-9330,

Schub chose the last quartets composed by three of the greatest writers for string quartet: Beethoven’s Quartet Op. 135, Smetana’s Quartet “From My Life” and Britten’s Quartet No. 3. The Britten was a choice because this is the centenary of his birth and the third of his three quartets is rarely performed. Smetana’s quartet sums up his whole life and features viola solos because he was a great violist, and the Beethoven is one of the great adventures for any string player to perform, Schub said.

Of special interest is the second concert on the schedule on Aug. 6. Violinist Gil Shaham, who will perform the next day with the Philadelphia Orchestra, will play with his wife, violinist Adele Anthony. While Shaham is well known to Saratoga Performing Arts Center audiences, having last appeared in 2005, this is Anthony’s debut.

“Gil is only the greatest violinist and she’s just as terrific,” Schub said.

Anthony’s career was launched in 1996 when she won the Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition. Although she and Shaham often perform together, the concert will also feature Ricardo Morales, the Philadelphia’s great principal clarinetist, who has an international solo career of his own. They and with orchestra cellist Yumi Kendall and violist Kirsten Johnson will play Brahms’ Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115. Also scheduled are Beethoven’s Duo for Viola and Cello “with two obbligato eyeglasses” and various violin duets by Bartok, Milone and Wieniawski.

One of the three concerts Schub will play will be on Aug. 11 with concertmaster David Kim.

“David really wanted to do Stravinsky’s ‘Suite Italienne,’ ” Schub said.

Joining them will be cellist Kendall, violist Kerri Ryan and violinist Marc Rovetti. Mozart’s “Eine Kleine Nach Musik” and Brahms’ Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8 are scheduled.

Piano tandem

Violinist Davyd Booth is well known to chamber fans as a member of the Wister Quartet. But they might not know he’s also an accomplished pianist. Last summer during a long afternoon, Schub and the Wister got together to play through some pieces. That’s when Schub discovered Booth’s other talent, he said.

So, on Aug. 13, he and Booth will perform Schubert’s Fantasia in F minor for Piano Four Hands. The Wister will play Borodin’s Quartet No. 2 in D Major and everyone will play on Shostakovich’s Quintet.

Composer Richard Danielpour is having a world premiere of his Serenade on Aug. 8 with the orchestra, so Schub wanted to feature one of his chamber works.

“He’s a great American composer,” Schub said. “His piano trio ‘A Child’s Reliquary’ is poignant but fleeting. It’s almost Mendelssohnian, although the first movement has a contemporary setting.”

Danielpour wrote the work in 1999 to honor the drowning of a friend’s son in a swimming pool.

“It is the most performed of my chamber pieces that I’ve written in 30 years of writing,” Danielpour said. “I’m so pleased that André-Michel programmed it. He’s a dear friend and it will give me an excuse to hang out with him.”

Performing the work will be pianist Dominic Cheli, violinist Alexi Kenney and cellist Andrew Janns. Violist Molly Carr will join them for Faure’s Quartet in C minor. Beethoven’s String Trio Op. 9, No. 2 will also be performed.

For the final concert Schub will work with violinist Juliette Kang and cellist Thomas Kraines in Beethoven’s Cello Sonata in G minor, his Violin Sonata in A Major and Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C minor.

“Juliette and I played on a concert last summer, so I thought it would be nice to play some more,” Schub said.

Crowd interaction

The Tuesday pre-talks at 7 p.m., one of Schub’s initiatives, allow the players to talk about anything they want and hopefully get audiences interested in what they’ll hear and to know a bit more about the musicians’ lives. Schub would like this to also become a forum for people to make requests, he said.

Schub said playing on three out of six concerts was a lot, especially doing the Schubert piano duet. He would still like to program works that would probably require even more rehearsal.

“I’ve played the bulk of piano chamber music with pieces that you grow with all your life,” he said. “But I’d love to program the Schubert and the Mendelssohn octets. Perhaps next year.”

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