Cellist Steven Isserlis is clearly in love with the two Brahms sonatas for cello and piano. He is capable of channeling his endless exuberance into these works, though with unique affection and respect for their two very different moods. Isserlis and pianist Kirill Gerstein treated an attentive and large crowd to these gems of the cello repertoire, among other lesser known pieces, Friday evening at University of Chicago’s newly renovated Mandel Hall (no relation to the byline).
“Not every conductorless group can pull it off, ” remarked violinist Nadja Solerno-Sonnenberg at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Thursday evening. “But we can.”
While major American orchestras struggle to maintain budgets and build audiences, the string quartet seems to be enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years. Chicago has seen this reemergence up close: the Pacifica Quartet has revived the standard repertoire with youthful vivacity; the Spektral Quartet has reimagined the traditional concert format to contextualize modern music. Though the quartet Brooklyn Rider is based on the east coast, its members have appeared in Chicago in various other iterations - as members of The Knights and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, to name two.
Northwestern’s Winter Chamber Music Festival opened Friday evening at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall amidst weather more reminiscent of spring than winter. The festival typically provides the first musical highlights of the year, and 2013 is off to a brilliant start for fans of chamber music.
Taking its name from the Latin word meaning “rejoice,” Gaudete Brass acknowledges the long history of brass chamber music that dates back to the time of Bach. The quintet, however, looks to the present and future with a repertoire that embraces contemporary composers. Gaudete’s latest release, Chicago Moves (Cedille Records), presents an array of music written by American composers in the last six years; six of the seven pieces were written for Gaudete Brass and receive their premier recording on this energetic album.
On the surface, the duo of WarnerNuzova is perhaps an unlikely pair. Wendy Warner, a Chicago-based cellist, and Irina Nuzova, pianist and Moscow native, share a love of Russian music that brought them together in 2008. Both are superb recitalists, but as collaborators, they have achieved a remarkable musical partnership. The duo is chamber artist in residence at the Music Institute of Chicago where, on Saturday evening, WarnerNuzova performed for a modest but attentive audience in Nichols Hall.
Sunday night, the Orion Chamber Ensemble performed the first show of their second concert series for the 2012-2013 season. Titled “A Night at the Opera,” The program featured an aria by Wagner transcribed for piano by Liszt and two instrumental works, a quintet and a quartet, by Carl Maria Weber and Giuseppe Verdi respectively, composers each famous for their operas.
Verdi’s only string quartet is full of operatic drama. Opening the night, the piece was performed by violinist Florentina Ramniceanu, cellist Judy Stone, and guest violinist Stephen Boe and violist Roger Chase. The musical conversation between the four instruments was intriguing to follow.
Recently Chicago once again played host to visitors and performers from all over the world at the International Beethoven Festival, an annual cavalcade of performances hosted by the International Beethoven Project, a local non-profit organization founded by pianist George Lepauw. This year the theme was Revolution, and who better to invite to perform (and make his debut in the United States) than one of the more unconventional young pianists performing today?