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A Colorful Fall Program from BCM

Mon, 10/17/2022 - 16:47
Bridgehampton Chamber Music is more than just its summer festival, a concert from this year pictured above. It has branched out to yearlong programs for all seasons.
Courtesy BCM

Once again, Bridgehampton Chamber Music will incrementally increase its offerings as it expands the BCM autumn series from two concerts to three. With one concert each month in October and November as well as a Baroque Holiday program in December, the festival brings to fruition a plan that had been delayed by the pandemic.

The celebrated Calidore String Quartet makes its first appearance with BCM on Oct. 29 with a colorful program of music by Shostakovich, Smetana, and the trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Founded in 2010, the quartet won a Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award in 2017 and an Avery Fisher Career Grant in 2018, and has been praised for "deep reserves of virtuosity and irrepressible dramatic instinct" by The New York Times and a "unique balance of intellect and expression" by The Los Angeles Times.  

"We are very excited to finally experience the magic" of the Bridgehampton setting, Ryan Meehan, a violinist for the quartet, said last week. He spoke about a relatively newer work on the program, dating from about 20 years ago, String Quartet No. 1, "At the Octoroon Balls," by Mr. Marsalis, the artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. 

Mr. Meehan said that in this work Mr. Marsalis takes influences from his childhood in New Orleans, where the Octoroon Ball "was a traditional, age-old event that went on every year, with people of all strata of society mingling. Each movement is based on a musical influence or flavor" that would be heard at the balls. Of the three movements to be heard, one is based on Creole rhythms, one is a lament perhaps like a church choir, and one "evokes the sound of a locomotive, with the fierce, kinetic energy of a train and a whistle," Mr. Meehan said.

Shostakovich's String Quartet No. 8 in C minor was composed not long after he joined the Communist Party, with reluctance. While it is dedicated "to the victims of fascism and the war," the work is said to reflect the composer's life under Soviet rule. His daughter has said this dedication was imposed by Russian authorities, and his real intention was to dedicate it to himself. It is a darker work on the program, at turns moody or tumultuous. 

Also having an autobiographical nature is Smetana's String Quartet No. 1, titled "From My Life." It features a polka, and a last movement that is joyful but suddenly has a high, piercing, monotonous drone, representing the composer's tinnitus.

String aficionados will be interested to know that Mr. Meehan plays a violin by Vincenzo Panormo, circa 1775. Jeffrey Myers's violin is from circa 1689, Jeremy Berry's viola dates from about 1811, and Estelle Choi's cello from around 1830. Mr. Meehan said the Calidore String Quartet is about to complete a major project: They have one session left of recording all 16 Beethoven string quartets, and the release date is expected in early 2023.

On Nov. 12, the second program of BCM Autumn will feature trios by Schubert, with Michael Stephen Brown, piano, Benjamin Beilman, violin, and Carter Brey, cello, all of whom have graced the BCM stage a number of times before. The main offering is Schubert's emotive Piano Trio in B-flat major. 

Marya Martin, founder and artistic director of BCM, said last week that Schubert originally wrote a Notturno (Nocturne) as the middle movement for this trio, but then he thought that movement needed to stand on its own, so he wrote another middle movement, which in itself is "one of the most exquisite." The Notturno, however, will open the program, and it has a delicate elegance of its own. 

In between these two Schubert pieces will be Martinu's Duo No. 2 for Violin and Cello, which Ms. Martin suggested would add "a little chili" to the menu. "It's energetic, fun . . . and people will be riveted by this performance."

While most of BCM's programs feature instrumentalists, the Baroque Holiday program on Dec. 10 will also highlight a baritone, William Socolof, a 2020 winner of the highly regarded Young Concert Artists auditions, from which many stellar performers have come. An outstanding up-and-comer who will be new to the Bridgehampton audience, Mr. Socolof will sing four Bach arias, including the perennial favorites "Sheep May Safely Graze" and "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

The centerpiece of the Dec. 10 program will be Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, which has an elaborate, extended harpsichord part that was unusual for the time. The harpsichordist will be Kenneth Weiss, who has been a resident of Montauk since childhood but is now based in Paris, where he is a professor at the Paris Conservatory. 

"There is this incredible, expansive cadenza that closes the first movement," Mr. Weiss said the other day about the harpsichord's role in the fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Bach had just gotten a new harpsichord, and he was likely trying it out and showing it off, he said. "It is probably the first florid cadenza of that length . . . and it is extremely well written for the instrument." The second movement is very tender, and the third by contrast is an extremely buoyant piece. 

For this concert, the harpsichord from Mr. Weiss's house in Montauk will be moved to the concert site, where "it sounds fantastic in the church" with its fine acoustics.

In addition to harpsichord and voice, the complete cast for this program consists of solo roles by violin and flute, with Ms. Martin playing the latter, and an ensemble of violin, viola, cello, and bass. Rounding out the program are two works by Corelli, the "Christmas Concerto" and "La Folia" for two violins and continuo, which Ms. Martin described as "fireworks," with "free, spontaneous, joyful" cadenza-like writing typical of the early Baroque.

These three BCM Autumn concerts are sure to bring beauty, art, inspiration, and delight to the community in the coming months. They take place at the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church on Saturdays at 5 p.m. Tickets are $45 or $65, and $10 for students. More information is at bcmf.org, by emailing [email protected], or by calling 212-741-9403.

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