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Chamber fest: Bach to Tango

May 2012

There are few sound experiences that can match an evening of chamber music in the intimate setting of an old church. It’s all about unique acoustic possibilities and direct communication with the audience.

Music lovers will have extraordinary opportunities to appreciate a broad programming range—from Bach to Shostakovich and the antics of the violin-piano duo Igudesman & Joo—when the Montreal Chamber Music Festival kicks off May 10.

In its 17th year, the series, created and curated by cellist Dennis Brott, offers 19 concerts over 24 days in the woody and vaulted setting of St. George’s Anglican Church, corner Peel and de la Gauchetière, opposite the old Windsor Station.

“Intimacy is what chamber music is all about, creating a person-to-person experience,” Brott says.

One highlight is the complete Bach cello suites played over three nights, May 15-17, by Colin Carr, with readings from Eric Siblin’s award-winning book on the music, read by the CBC’s Eric Friesen and musicologist Richard Turp.

“Intimacy is what chamber music is all about,” Dennis Brott says. Photo courtesy of Montreal Chamber Music Festival

Dmitri Shostakovitch’s 15 quartets—among the greatest works of the last century—will be performed over four nights, May 22-25, by the highly regarded Pacifico Quartet, with pre-concert analyses from author Wendy Lesser, author of Music for Silenced Voices and Turp.

Shostakovitch’s quartets, Brott says, “are filled with sarcasm, acronyms, musical shorthand and under-the-radar messages.” Hearing expert commentary “will deepen the experience and make it more meaningful.”

Mozart’s six viola quintets are featured May 29 and 31, with the prize-winning Cecilia and Afiara String Quartets, augmented by veteran violists Michael Tree and Barry Shiffman.

The quintets, Brott notes, are “among Mozart’s more personal works, filled with a pathos and an interest that chronicles his development in a very concise way.” Eric Friesen will provide commentary, with excerpts from Mozart’s letters.

The opening concert on May 10 showcases renowned Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian with pianist Serouj Kradjian, who will be offering classic vocal pieces as well as Armenian folk songs.

For a bit of humour, do not miss the Montreal debut of Russian violinist Aleksey Igudesman and Korean pianist Hyung-ki Joo, who, in the best Victor Borge tradition, present their hilarious A Little Nightmare Music May 30.

With evenings dedicated to Bartok and Ravel, featuring violinist James Ehnes, tango and jazz events, and a final Dvorak in America June 2 with Brott playing cello, the lineup and program are first rate.

Tickets: $40, seniors $35, students $14. There are four-concert deals, and festival passes at $600. 514-489-7444



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