For the 27th year of the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival, instead of unusual and seldom-heard classical works, founder and artist director Peter Sanders decided to program what he wants to play.
“I took a left turn when I normally go to the right,” he said recently by phone. “I just thought, you know what, after years of trying different works, a lot of which I liked and the audiences liked, you know what? I’d like to play some great music. So that’s what we’re doing this year, we’re doing a lot of great music.”
For its annual residency Aug. 12-25, at the Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, the festival will bookend its season with major Saturday concerts, Aug. 17 with Mendelssohn and Brahms, and all-Beethoven on Aug. 24 (repeated Aug. 25 in Woodstock). New this year is Big Galut(e), klezmer ensemble Aug. 21. And the annual Breakfast with Bach/Baroque Brunch with the Vermont Youth Orchestra returns Aug. 18.
The first Saturday evening concert, Aug. 17, features two viola quintets: Felix Mendelssohn’s penultimate work, the String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat, Opus 87, and Johannes Brahms’s first string quintet, in F Major, Opus 88. Performing will be violinists Joanna Maurer and Derek Ratzenboeck, violists Katarzyna Bryla-Weiss and Michael Roth, and Sanders on cello.
“I hadn’t played either of them and I thought I’d like to play things I hadn’t done,” Sanders said. (He spends most of the year playing for the New York City Ballet.) “That’s why I started all this madness, because it allows me to play music I hadn’t played before with the people I love making music with.”
Separating the quintets will be a motet, “Ave Maria,” attributed to French Renaissance composer Josquin des Prezm, arranged for string quartet by the musicologist and late father of Sanders, Ernest H. Sanders.
“That’s something I think will really sound beautiful with strings,” Sanders said. “The piece is really beautiful.”
The second Saturday concert, Aug. 25, will be devoted to works by Ludwig van Beethoven: the Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 5 in F, Opus 24, “Spring”; Sonata for Cello and Piano No. 5 in D, Opus 102; and the Piano Trio in D, Opus 70, No. 1, “Ghost.” Joining Sanders will be violinist Arturo Delmoni and pianist Adrienne Kim. In fact, No. 5 is the cellist’s favorite Beethoven sonata.
“Everybody immediately gravitates to the A Major (No. 3),” Sanders said. “But I, for some reason, from schooldays on, have always had an affinity for the fifth sonata. I think the slow movement is absolutely stunning, in kind of a similar way to the slow movement of the trio, which is also stunning. Personally, it’s a sonata that I love to play – and playing it with Adrienne is going to be a blast.
“It sort of gives you an overview of early, middle and late Beethoven,” Sanders said of the program. “Arturo’s sonata is on the early side, the trio is in the middle, and the cello sonata is on the late side. It’s kind of cool.”
New this year, Sanders has invited the prize-winning Klezmer quintet Big Galut(e) for a rollicking evening, Aug. 21. The program includes a very eclectic variety of Jewish music styles, spanning five continents and six centuries, including Klezmer originals and takes on traditional classical works.
“Maybe it’ll bring some crossover into the regular season,” Sanders said.
Breakfast with Bach, Aug. 18, begins at 11 a.m. with breakfast in the Esther Mesh Room of the Chandler Upper Gallery, with food provided by Shari Dutton and Friends of the former Three Bean Café. At 12:30, festival artists will be joined at Bethany Church across the street by members of the Vermont Youth Orchestra, led by VYO Music Director, Yutaka Kono. Lucas Parascando and Joe Balkan will be the student soloists in a performance of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, Strings, and Continuo in d minor, BWV 1043.
At Friday Night in the Gallery, Aug. 23, all are invited to enjoy an informal opportunity to meet, ask questions of, and play for (bring your instruments) the resident artists. All ages are encouraged to be part of this session. Open rehearsals are also available to the public Thursdays, Aug. 15 and 22.
In what has become an annual tradition, Walter Parker will host members of the festival on VPR Classical at 11 a.m. Friday, Aug. 16. Tune in!