GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

June 13, 2013

Chamber Fest salutes Wagner, Verdi's 200th

Rockport Chamber Fest pays homage to Wagner, Verdi 200ths

By Times staff
Gloucester Daily Times

---- — The second weekend of the Rockport Chamber Music Festival will pay homage to two of the great composers — Wagner and Verdi — in marking each’s 200th birthday year.

Tonight, at 8 p.m., Rockport Music presents Wagner at 200 (and Bruckner at 189).

Primarily known for his operas, the 200th anniversary of Richard Wagner’s birth marks the enduring influence his work has had on the development of classical music.

His “Tristan und Isolde” is often described as the start of modern music. His “Wesendonck Lieder” was inspired by Mathilde Wesendonck who provided the poetry for the five songs, two of which Wagner subtitled as “studies for Tristan und Isolde.”

The program features outstanding young musicians, including highly-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Naomi O’Connell, who was recently hailed as “… a radiant mezzo-soprano” by the New York Times and is a 2011 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition First Prize Winner. In this program, she performs Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder.

Other works in the program include Wagner’s Piano Sonata No. 3 in A-flat major and Anton Bruckner’s String Quintet in F major. Bruckner was an Austrian composer (1824-1896).

Then on Friday at 8 p.m., the Rockport Chamber Music Fest — now in its 32nd year — celebrates the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth with a performance of his string quartet and Lady Macbeth’s Sleepwalking Aria from his opera “Macbeth.”

Mezzo-soprano Naomi O’Connell received rave reviews for her performance of this aria during her leading role in Master Class, opposite Tyne Daly. She also will perform three additional Verdi songs: La seduzione, Stornello, and Brindisi.

The program includes Vittorio Giannini’s Quintet for Piano and Strings, and is preceded by a lecture at 7 p.m.

The festival continues Saturday at 8 p.m., with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and pianist Anton Nel performing a program including Mozart’s Sonata in F major, K. 377, Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Speigel, Ravel’s Sonata No. 2 in G major, as well as works by Piazzolla and de Falla.

Meyers performs around the world as a recitalist and soloist with major orchestras and her 2012 “Air-The Bach” album debuted at No. 1 on Billboard charts. A diverse musician, Meyers has collaborated with pop singing sensation Il Divo, as well as top jazz artists Chris Botti and Wynton Marsalis. She performs on one of the most iconic violins ever made—the “Ex-Vieuxtemps” Guarneri Del Gesu (1741). The American Record Guide hails her, saying, “through her peerless mastery and vivid imagination there seems to be no limit to the colors she can draw from her instrument.”

An acclaimed Beethoven interpreter, Nel is the 1987 first prize winner of the Naumburg International Piano Competition and a top prizewinner at the 1984 Leeds International Piano Competition. He is currently on faculty at University of Texas at Austin. This concert is preceded by a lecture at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, 5 p.m., The Boston Trio — Heng-Jin Park, piano; Irina Muresanu, violin; Denise Djokic, cello — will perform Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces for Piano Trio, Op. 88, John Musto’s Piano Trio, and Brahms’s Piano Trio in C major, Op. 87. These virtuosic musicians are known for their commitment to creating exceptional and daring performances of standard and contemporary repertoire.

Monday at 8 p.m., there will be a special performance featuring the Grammy nominated Boston Early Music Festival, a group with an international reputation for groundbreaking work reviving Baroque opera masterpieces.

The group is known for bringing the glamorous world of Baroque opera to life, featuring a cast of operatic stars, lavish period sets and costumes, special effects, and dance. The group will present two works of Marc-Antoine Charpentier with “La Descente d’Orphèe aux Enfers” and “La Couronne de Fleurs.”

Finally, next Tuesday, at 7 p.m., there will be an HD broadcast, with Helen Mirren starring as Queen Elizabeth II in the National Theatre of London’s “The Audience.”

The play, directed by Stephen Daldry, imagines discussions between the queen and various prime ministers in their weekly private meetings.

There is a free community and education event on Saturday, June 15, at 10 a.m. with a program “Strings ‘N Things,” which is a community concert for all ages.

The Rockport Chamber Music Festival will continue through July 14, with other concerts and events continuing throughout the year.

For ticket information and details, visit www.rockportmusic.org.

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3445, or at gmccarthy@gloucestertimes.com.