Chamber music festival begins four weeks of concerts

Some things remain the same for the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival this summer: great musicians, and compelling programs.

Other things will change. For one, a new residency brings a different kind of energy to the four weeks of concerts, which begin Friday in Wellfleet. But the passing of an old festival friend brings another kind of change, one which will be remembered in the most fitting way possible – musically.

The opening concert at First Congregational Church in Wellfleet offers the festival debut of Yevgeny Kutik. The Russian-American violinist may just be turning 30 this year, but his professional career has been on an upward trajectory for a dozen seasons already, after winning the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s young artist competition in 2003 and appearing with the Boston Pops.

To get the festival started, Kutik will perform sonatas by Mendelssohn and Prokofiev, transcriptions by Debussy and Stravinsky, and Ravel’s dynamic “Tzigane,” accompanied by pianist Spencer Myer.

The next three weeks will feature performances by co-artistic directors Jon Nakamatsu and Jon Manasse; Imani Winds; the Jupiter, Emerson, Danish and Borromeo string quartets; Boston Trio; American Brass Quintet and a host of guest artists. As in the past, performances will be spread out over half a dozen venues along the Cape.

A concert on Aug. 12 at First Congregational Church in Chatham, performed by the Manasse/Nakamatsu Duo, will memorialize longtime festival friend Deborah Geithner. A pianist of some renown on her own, Geithner, an Orleans resident, died in August.

“She was one of the first board members that I met during our initial year as directors,” Jon Nakamatsu says. “As a pianist herself, we became fast friends. She invited us into her home, housing artists, hosting rehearsals and just making us feel welcome. She was a beloved figure on the Cape – not only as a stellar music teacher, but as a most caring and honest person.” The duo will perform music by Messager, Debussy, Brahms and Goodwin in her memory.

The festival has always showcased great string quartets, and this year is no exception. For the first time, however, one of them – Jupiter – will be in residence, performing three concerts not just as a foursome, but in various quintet, duo and trio combinations as well.

Setting up shop Aug. 19 in Cotuit, then Aug. 20 in Orleans, and Aug. 21 in Wellfleet, the stellar ensemble will play the music of Beethoven, Haydn, Brahms, Dohnanyi and others, as well as a new quartet by Sydney Hodkinson.

Jupiter’s first violinist Nelson Lee says that Hodkinson’s quartet, premiered just this month at the Aspen Music Festival, “goes for broke. He has a concept in mind, and he’s extremely colorful in going after it. You can almost see the music coming off the page.”

The idea of a residency, Nakamatsu says, “was conceived as a way to explore the depth of an ensemble as both a group, and as individuals. In Orleans, Jupiter performs as a quartet, but in the other appearances, they explore the cello sonata, piano trio and quintet repertoire. For audiences, this is a way to see the flexibility of an established ensemble.”

The Boston Trio’s Aug. 11 appearance at Cotuit Center for the Arts has been spiced up by the spring announcement that the trio’s cellist, Astrid Schween, will join the prestigious Juilliard String Quartet after this season. Schween, who replaces the retiring Joel Krosnick, will be forced to leave her trio partners for the chance to join Juilliard.

“Not only do they keep a very busy touring schedule,” Schween says, “but we’re also in residence at the school that gives them their name. So between teaching and coaching at Juilliard, and performing with the quartet, I had no choice but to focus on that.”

Schween will still have one more season collaborating with violinist Irina Muresanu and pianist Heng-Jin Park, however. And for this performance, they will play trios by Fauré, Arensky, and a work by American composer John Musto.

“Musto’s trio is wonderful,” Schween says. “It’s a mix of various styles – minimalist, boogie-woogie, some things that sound like Poulenc. But for audiences it always seems very accessible.”
The festival also includes a gala Sunday in South Yarmouth, and an Aug. 24 picnic at Wellfleet Preservation Hall.