Eric Bartlett and Paul Suits, two musicians who have performed with the finest orchestras in the world, will join forces Sunday at 3 p.m. at Filene Hall on the campus of Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs.
The event, put on by the Saratoga Chamber Players, is called "Music for Piano and Cello," and will include some classic works along with a relatively new composition by George Walker, the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize for Music. Walker, a Washington, D.C., native, died in August of 2018 at age 96.
Jill Levy, artistic director of the Saratoga Chamber Players, said Sunday's event will be a huge thrill for chamber music lovers.
"These are two world-class musicians and it sounds like a fantastic program," said Levy, a violinist who also serves as concertmaster for the Albany Symphony Orchestra. "Eric has been here before and he's a good friend, but Paul is new to me. He's a colleague and friend of Eric's, and they've worked together before. Paul lives in Switzerland and he's coming all the way from there for this concert, so we're very happy to have him."
The duo, Suits on piano and Bartlett on cello, will perform Chopin's "Introduction & Polonaise brillante in C. Major, Op. 65"; Walker's "Sonata for Cello and Piano"; a work composed by Suits, "Fantasy"; and Chopin's "Sonata in G minor, Op. 64."
"They're starting with a work by Chopin and ending with a Chopin sonata, one that is a big, really gorgeous work," said Levy. "The slow movement is deeply touching and beautiful, and in the middle of the two Chopin pieces will be two contemporary works. We're really looking forward to it."
Bartlett, a Marlboro, Vermont, native, got his master's degree in 1979 from The Juilliard School, where he was a student of Leonard Rose and Channing Robbins. He has been a member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra since 1983 and the New York Philharmonic since 1997. For 14 seasons he was principal cellist of Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival orchestra and was a guest principal of the American Ballet Theatre orchestra.
Bartlett made his solo debut with the New York Philharmonic in March of 2015, and recently released a new CD of four commissioned works, titled "Essence of Cello," with the Albany Records label. He is currently an adjunct instructor at The Juilliard School, where he teaches orchestral repertoire for cello.
Suits is a California native who spent two years at UC-Santa Cruz before transferring to Mannes College of Music in New York City, where he earned a bachelor's and a master's in music. After freelancing as a musician in the New York area for a while, Suits received a grant from a major music conservatory in Stuttgart, Germany, and was soon performing at the Menuhin Festival in Gstaad and the Murten Festival in Switzerland.
Along with composing pieces for orchestras throughout Europe, Suits has taught at leading conservatories in Switzerland for the past 25 years. He is also currently working on a book about score reading.
The Saratoga Chamber Players have been bringing musicians such as Bartlett and Suits to the Capital Region for more than three decades. The group has performed at a number of different venues in the Saratoga Springs area, including Skidmore's Zankel Music Center, the Saratoga Springs United Methodist Church, the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls and the Church of Saint Peter on Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
"We've also had some special events at Caffe Lena," said Levy, "and we were part of the special event on First Night at the St. Peter's Parish. We teamed up with the Tango Fusion Dance Company and people learned how to waltz with live music. It was a lot of fun. It was really exciting to watch them teach people to dance to live waltz music."
Levy said the Saratoga Chamber Players has a strong and loyal following.
"When I first started out, our audiences were quite small," she said. "Then we grew and grew, and then it seemed to diminish a bit. Now, I'm happy to say that recently we've had some very good audiences. It's hard to pinpoint why, but the area's response has been very good."
The group's second concert of the season will be on April 28 at the Saratoga United Methodist Church. Levy will take her musicians to the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls on June 16, then play their final performance of 2019 on a date to be determined.
"We have four concerts a year, and we usually don't perform in the summer because there is so much else going on in Saratoga," said Levy.
Music for Piano and Cello
WHAT: A performance by the Saratoga Chamber Players with Paul Suits and Eric Bartlett
WHERE: Skidmore College's Filene Hall, Saratoga Springs
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $25-$15
MORE INFO: Visit www.saratogachamberplayers.org