The Rockport Chamber Music Festival launches its 31st season with a gala next Thursday, marking the start of the expanded five-week series featuring pianists, string quartets, string trios, choral and early-music ensembles, and a brass quintet.
The June 7 gala features legendary pianist Leon Fleisher in a performance at the now 3-year-old Shalin Liu Performance Center, in an event that includes a reception and dining.
Fleisher, also a conductor and teacher, was singled out as one of the most gifted young musicians by a New York Times critic and later called "the pianistic find of the century" by noted conductor Pierre Monteux.
He later suffered from a rare neurological disease that left him without the use of his right hand. That did not hold him back. Decades later he would undergo brain surgery and grueling experimental treatments, and at the age of 67, he would perform again with both hands at Carnegie Hall.
Now 83, the iconic performer continues to wow the audiences. The opening night gala includes a screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary "Two Hands," on Fleisher's life and career.
But that is just the beginning of the series that will cover the musical riches of nearly 10 centuries of music, from the medieval played by Jordi Savall, to works by Thomas Ades, composed in the past year. Ades, born in 1971, is a British pianist and composer.
"I select performers for their superb artistry and interesting programs," says Rockport Music artistic director David Deveau. "Blending in new faces with audience favorites is always a joy.
"I love to surprise concert-goers with a genuinely eclectic menu," he says. "Everyone who performs at the Shalin Liu Performance Center raves about the space — and the audience. There's always electricity in the air, and a remarkable synergy between the audience and the artist."
From its inception, the chamber music series has been open to established musicians as well as the rising stars.
Deveau, the artistic director for the past 17 years, said that commitment continues with the introduction of brilliant young artists, such as the young Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez and the "red-hot" Calder Quartet.
Among the newcomers debuting at Rockport Chamber Music is the internationally known group Spanish Brass. Chamber favorites include performances by the Jupiter and Parker string quartets, the debut of the Trio con Brio Copenhagen, and A Far Cry string orchestra with André©s Cé°rdenes, a violin soloist, and Deveau playing Mozart's Concerto No. 14. Festival favorite clarinetist Richard Stoltzman also returns.
Additional festival events include three free family concerts, three Friday evening prelude suppers, five pre-concert lectures, an open rehearsal, and a master class with Deveau.
Following the chamber music festival, Rockport Music presents leading jazz, pop and world music performers for it summer season, including folk icon Judy Collins, guitarist John Jorgensen, and singer-songwriter Paula Cole, as well as its first Rockport Jazz Festival with drummer Roy Haynes, pianist Ellis Marsalis, and others.
Gail McCarthy may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3445 or email@example.com.
Chamber Music Festival
What: Rockport Chamber Music Festival kicks off 31st season.
When: The series runs five weeks, from the kick-off gala on June 7 through July 6.
Where: Shalin Liu Performance Center, 37 Main St. in Rockport.
How much: Subscription series vary; prices begin at $97 for four concerts. Single ticket prices range from $35 to $78. Free tickets are available to youth 18 and under to most concerts (limited availability). Students 19 to 26 may purchase $12 tickets to all concerts. For tickets and information, visit www.rockportmusic.org or visit the box office at 35 Main St. in Rockport, or call 978-546-7391.
Extra: In addition to opening concert June 7 with pianist Leon Fleisher, one can purchase tickets to a pre-concert reception held on the third floor and a post-concert dinner at the Rockport Art Association. Honorary chairmen are Alan Joslin and Deborah Epstein, architects of the music hall.