There will be three performances in the first five days - Friday’s 8:15 p.m. concert (and 7:30 pre-concert chat,) Sunday’s annual Family Concert at 3 p.m. (free!) and Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. program. Even if the weather continues to be glorious, it’s well worth it to head indoors as each event is a one-time-only gem. Rain or shine, live music superbly played is a treat for the soul – and Sitka is very, very lucky to have this annual chamber series.
Friday’s concert will open with one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s monumental unaccompanied cello suites performed by longtime Festival cellist Tony Elliott. He has been a favorite (and frequently re-invited) conductor for the Alaska All State Honor Orchestra for many years, and the students always respond enthusiastically to his personal warmth and musical passion. The D Major Suite has six stylized and contrasting dance movements. The piece is full of emotional depth and brilliant scoring; you will swear you are hearing more than one instrument.
Considered the rival of Beethoven in his day, Ludwig Spohr was a prolific composer who wrote more than 200 works. He created 19 virtuosic violin duets at the height of his fame. Critic Alex Ross described the 1824 D major Duo as “a genial slice of high Romanticism with lovely Schubertian themes strewn about indiscriminately.” Keng-Yuen Tseng and Paul Rosenthal will perform this remarkable and well-crafted piece.
This year is the 200th anniversary of Felix Mendelssohn’s birth, so we will be hearing several of his works during the 2009 series. Friday’s concert will conclude with one of chamber music’s great treasures – Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49. Composer Robert Schumann described it as “the master trio of the age, as were the B flat and D major trios of Beethoven and the E flat trio of Schubert in their times.” Its tuneful melodies and persuasive character have made this one of Mendelssohn’s most popular chamber pieces. The ever-hopeful fisherman and elegant cellist Evan Drachman will be joined by one of the Festival’s founding musicians, versatile pianist Doris Stevenson, and new Sitka violinist Keng-Yuen Tseng.
Sunday’s Family concert has a top-secret theme but is bound to be loads of fun for people of all ages and interests. This free event concludes with ice cream floats for all. And, on Tuesday evening at 7:30 we have the chance to hear one of Beethoven’s early, majestic string trios, Op. 9, No. 2, and the gorgeous Brahms Piano Quartet in C Minor, Op. 60, nicknamed “Werther” for the sentimental hero of a Goethe novel about a man who kills himself due to the unrequited love for his friend’s wife. The emotional pinnacle of this work is the exquisite slow movement.
If you are interested in some extra information about the music and composers, join me on Friday at 7:30 in Centennial Hall with special guest cellist Evan Drachman for a pre-concert chat about the opening program and details about the Sunday Family concert. All the artists, from many locations, gather here as friends and colleagues to make world-class music. Let’s give a grand welcome to the 2009 Sitka Festival musicians – and give yourself the gift of glorious music to match the indescribably beautiful setting of Sitka.