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Union College series by the February numbers: Duo, quartet, trio

Union College series by the February numbers: Duo, quartet, trio

Tenor Bostridge and pianist Drake lead off on Saturday
Union College series by the February numbers: Duo, quartet, trio
English tenor Ian Bostridge will sing Saturday at Union's Memorial Chapel.
Photographer: Provided

A concert promoter’s work is never done.

Take Derek Delaney, for instance. He’s the artistic director for the Union College Concert Series and he had three slots in February to fill.

Saturday, Feb. 10

English tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Julius Drake

“The concert almost fell through upon signing the contract, as Bostridge is performing the title role in Handel’s ‘Jeptha’ with the Paris Opera and his run turned out to be longer than expected. His entire 10-day North American tour had to be altered and we were lucky to be able to present him,” Delaney said.

Bostridge is singing a selection of Schubert songs including “The Earl King,” “The Dwarf,” “Melancholy” and “Night and Dreams.” These are only some of the 200 songs he has sung out of the 600-plus songs that Schubert (1797-1826) wrote.

“What’s so great is that there are so many different styles,” Bostridge said. “He even invents new styles. He can create a whole new atmosphere and journey.”

As Bostridge fans know, he sings his songs as if he were telling stories at a cocktail party.

“It’s not effective to just stand at a piano and sing,” he said. “I must get the audience engrossed. They must be able to forget that you’re singing.”

Working with his longtime colleague Julius Drake is also a plus because he knows Bostridge’s style so well, he said. Their latest CD is “Songs by Schubert, Vol. 3” (Wigmore Hall Live, 2017).

Sunday, Feb. 18

Apollon Musagete Quartet

“Two years back I stumbled upon a live performance of them on YouTube and was immediately taken with their virtuosic playing. They didn’t have American management so I sent an inquiry via their website to their German manager and held this date,” Delaney said.

The quartet is Polish by birth but educated in Vienna. They formed in 2006 and are based in Germany. While this is the quartet’s debut in the series, it’s their fourth North American tour, including a stop at Carnegie Hall. They’ve also toured America with pop singer Tori Amos, a connection that reflects the quartet’s eclectic interests — and their name. 

“It’s about Greek mythology,” said Bartosz Zachlod, the quartet’s second violinist. “Apollon is for Apollo and the Musagete means the leader of the muses.”

Besides performing the traditional repertoire and collaborating with living composers who’ve dedicated many works to them, they compose music and have recorded six discs of varied works. For Sunday, they’ll perform works by Sibelius, Beethoven and Grieg.

“The Sibelius is usually a chamber orchestra piece and not often played as a quartet; the Beethoven was requested; and the Grieg is very symphonic, dramatic, beautiful and lyrical. It’s very … Grieg,” Zachlod said laughing.

The quartet also has its own look thanks to a female Viennese tailor.

“She heard us play and was enthusiastic, and offered to make our clothes,” Zachlod said. “Because she also plays violin, she understands what’s needed for comfort. Her prestigious clients include the president of Austria, so we’re very honored.”

Sunday, Feb. 25

Violinist Soovin Kim, pianist Gloria Chien, cellist Paul Watkiins

“I’ve been trying to include a piano trio on the series for some time. Soovin mentioned he’d recently formed a trio with his wife and Paul (from the Emerson String Quartet). I signed them up immediately,” Delaney said.

“Two years ago we played together for the first time and we hit it off immediately on all levels,” Kim said. “Even rehearsals start up at a high level. We learn from each other.”

They’ll perform masterworks by Beethoven and Brahms, and a trio by Vermont composer Pierre Jalbert, whom Kim calls “a great American composer. Not a note or phrase is poorly written.”

Union College Concert Series in February

WHEN: Feb. 10, Feb. 18, Feb. 25, all at 3 p.m.
WHERE: Union College Memorial Chapel
HOW MUCH: $30; students free
MORE INFO: 518-388-6080; www.unioncollegeconcerts.org

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