Chamber Arts Series
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The 23/24 Chamber Arts Series is now available for new subscribers! This popular longstanding series features eight concerts by world-renowned classical ensembles selected by the Chamber Arts Society of Durham at Duke University. View full concert details below.
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Subscribers save 20% off single ticket prices to the Chamber Arts Series, and get access to the best seats in the house. Single tickets go on sale on August 15.
Emerson String Quartet
Friday, September 8, 2023 at 8 pm
Our Chamber Arts Series opens with a final visit from the Emerson String Quartet, a group that has been at the forefront of chamber music-making across the globe for the best part of a half century. With more than 30 acclaimed recordings, nine GRAMMY Awards, three Gramophone Awards and an Avery Fisher Prize to their name, this year the American quartet bids adieu to the concert stage.
On their farewell tour, the Emersons will bring a range of classic quartets, opening with Mendelssohn’s passionate String Quartet No. 2, a work significantly influenced by the late string quartets of another featured composer on the program: Beethoven. The final of Beethoven’s trio of late string quartets – and the composer’s personal favorite – is thought to be one of his most original and ambitious, with shifting chromaticism and contrapuntal movement. Sandwiched in between these two works is Debussy’s only string quartet, the only piece to which he ever attributed an opus number and designated a key. Despite its conventional form, however, the work is full of Debussy’s trademark impressionistic tonal shifts.
Mendelssohn: String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor, op. 13
Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 12 in D-flat Major, op. 133
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, op. 131
Saturday, October 7, 2023 at 8 pm
Renowned for exceptional technique and innovative collaborations with artists from all disciplines, the Merz Trio are a rising star ensemble who have been delighting audiences and critics alike since they began playing together in 2016.
The trio brings a typically dynamic program to the Chamber Arts Series, with works spanning over 300 years. The most substantial featured work is Schumann’s Piano Trio No. 2, a work rich in contrapuntally dense development and an optimistic, jovial musicality. The composer wrote this, along with his first piano trio, in 1847. It was a particularly productive year for the composer – but a desperately sad one personally, due to the death of his young son and the sudden unexpected deaths of his dear friends Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn. Alongside this work sit chamber arrangements of songs by early Baroque composer Stefano Landi and one of England’s greatest opera composers Henry Purcell. His ‘Hush No More’ is taken from The Fairy Queen, a semi-opera adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream whose score was only discovered in the early 20th century.
Weinberg: Piano Trio, op. 24
Peteris Vasks: Episodi e Canta Perpetuo (1985)
Stefano Landi: Augellin
Purcell: ‘Hush No More’ from The Fairy Queen
Ana Sokolovic: Portrait Parle (2006)
Robert Schumann: Piano Trio No. 2 in F Major, op. 80
Sunday, November 5, 2023 at 7 pm
Violinist Jennifer Koh’s dazzling virtuosity and technical brilliance have won her praise from audiences, journalists and competition juries alike. Working across a wide range of diverse repertoire, Koh has been pioneering in commissioning new material for her instrument, premiering over 100 works written especially for her. She has been described by The New York Times as a ‘masterly Bach interpreter.’
For her Chamber Arts Series appearance, she returns to the complete solo partitas and sonatas by Bach. She has recorded and performed these works for her critically acclaimed three-part ‘Bach & Beyond’ series, in which she pairs the sonatas and partitas with works by living composers. ‘When Koh plays Bach, the world dissolves,’ wrote Fanfare of this series, while BBC Music Magazine applauded her ‘impeccable sense of style.’
Complete Bach Solo Partitas/Sonatas
Viano String Quartet
Saturday, December 9, 2023 at 8 pm
The Viano String Quartet is a chamber ensemble that commands attention. Since winning the prestigious 2019 Banff International String Quartet Competition, the quartet has established a reputation as one of the most exciting and dynamic young groups on the classical music scene today.
For their Chamber Arts Series debut, they have selected a varied program that begins with Piazzolla’s “Introduccion del Angel,” a piece that blends traditional Argentinean tango with elements of classical music. The quartet will then perform Bartók’s String Quartet No. 3, which is known for its complex rhythms and use of folk melodies. Contemporary Canadian composer Kevin Lau’s 2023 work, will offer a modern interpretation of the genre. Finally, the quartet will conclude with Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat, Op. 130 and Große Fuge, Op. 133, written toward the end of his life. Große Fuge is the divisive and fiendishly difficult original ending to String Quartet No. 13, which was replaced due to negative critical reception at the time, but thankfully published separately for contemporary audiences to enjoy.
PIAZZOLLA: Introduccion del Angel
BARTÓK: String Quartet No. 3, in C-sharp Minor
Kevin Lau: new work (2023)
Beethoven: String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, op. 130
Beethoven: Große Fuge, Op. 133
Escher String Quartet
Saturday, January 20, 2024 at 8 pm
Former BBC New Generation Artists, season artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and recipients of the Avery Fischer Career Grant, the Escher String Quartet is among the leading chamber ensembles in the United States.
Bringing with them a program of wide-ranging emotional moods, the Eschers start off with one of the most popular of Haydn’s eighty-three string quartets, referred to as ‘The Lark’ thanks to its perpetually lively tempo and soaring main theme. They then cycle forward to an early 20th-century masterpiece by Bartók, richly imbued with elements of Hungarian, Romanian and Bulgarian music, utilizing a wide range of extended instrumental techniques and folk harmonies. Bringing us back to an elegiac mood is Schubert’s ‘Death and the Maiden’ quartet, the last major work the composer completed before his death in 1847 – while he was mourning the unexpected death of his sister Fanny.
Haydn: String Quartet No. 5 in D Major, op. 64 (‘The Lark’)
Bartók: String Quartet No. 4 in C Major
Schubert: String Quartet No. 14 in D Minor (‘Death and the Maiden’)
Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields Wind Ensemble
Saturday, February 10, 2024 at 8 pm
Wind players from one of the world’s finest chamber orchestras, the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, return to the Chamber Arts Series with a vibrant program of small-scale chamber works.
There are two milestone quintets featured in this program by Mozart and Beethoven respectively, referencing one another both in their scoring and key signatures. After the premiere of his Quintet, Mozart wrote to his father saying ‘I myself consider it to be the best thing I have written in my life.’ With extensive sketches in existence for this piece, it was clearly a project Mozart had laboured over – surprising for a composer not usually known for rewriting material. Beethoven takes his lead from Mozart in his youthful Quintet, written in his twenties when he was exploring the sonic possibilities of instruments in a chamber setting. We’re also presented with two trios in this concert, one by the French neoclassical composer Jean Françaix and another lively offering by the German Romantic composer Reinecke.
Reinecke: Trio for Oboe, Horn, and Piano, op. 188
Mozart: Quintet for Winds and Piano in E-flat Major, K452
Jean Françaix: Divertimento for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon
Beethoven: Quintet for Winds and Piano in E-flat Major, op. 16
Saturday, March 16, 2024 at 8 pm
Fauré Quartett has been captivating audiences worldwide for over two decades with their innovative approach to classical music. They combine their deep understanding of the traditional repertoire with a willingness to experiment and push boundaries, resulting in captivating and memorable performances that make them a must-see for any classical music lover.
Their selected program opens with Mahler’s Klavierquartettsatz, a hauntingly beautiful single movement piece and the composer’s only known piece of instrumental chamber music. Next up is a work by the group’s namesake, Fauré’s Piano Quartet in c-minor, a work of stunning lyricism and emotional depth that perfectly captures the composer’s romantic sensibilities. Finally, the program culminates with Brahms’ Piano Quartet in G-minor, a monumental work that is regarded by many as one of the greatest chamber music compositions of all time. With its fiery passion, soaring melodies, and intricate counterpoint, Brahms’ masterpiece will bring the evening to a thrilling close.
Fauré: Piano Quartet in c minor, op .15
Brahms: Piano Quartet in g minor, op. 25
Doric String Quartet
Friday, April 26, 2024 at 8 pm
The Doric String Quartet is one of the leading quartets of its generation, widely celebrated for its approaches to a wide range of repertoire and, as The Observer has noted, its ‘warmth, finesse and exciting attack.’
The ensemble begins with Schumann’s jovial String Quartet No. 3. which was penned in 1842 – a year in which the composer was preoccupied by ‘constant quartet thoughts,’ as he noted in his diary. This gives way to an exuberant early quartet by Beethoven, whose agile writing and deft handling of counterpoint make for an engaging listen. The Dorics end with Schubert’s final quartet, written around the same as Beethoven was completing his own late string quartets. This is a substantial work, with a wide range of dynamic contrast and texture. Lyrical ideas and structural ambiguity take precedence here over traditional harmony, with many facets of Schubert’s musical personality brought to life in a vibrant juxtaposition.