Mix of familiar and obscure lined up for Eine Kleine Summer Music

What: Eine Kleine Summer Music
When/where: Saturdays, June 4 and 18, 2:30 p.m., Muse Winery (11195 Chalet Rd., North Saanich). Sundays, June 5, 12, and 19, 2:30 p.m., First Unitarian Church of Victoria (5575 West Saanich Rd.). Friday, June 10, 6 p.m., De Vine Vineyards (6181 Old West Saanich Rd., Central Saanich). July 2 and 3, 2:30 p.m., First Unitarian Church.
Tickets: First Unitarian $25, seniors and students $20, subscriptions $106.25/$87.50 (5 concerts) and $85/$70 (4 concerts); Muse and De Vine $27. Call 250-413-3134; online at eventbrite.ca.
Details: eksm.ca.

 

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The 29th season of Eine Kleine Summer Music is still three weeks away, but this chamber-music festival is so reliably popular that many of its concerts sell out early, so it makes sense to introduce the season now.

It will be unusually ambitious. In June, there will be three Sunday afternoon concerts at First Unitarian Church, in the Saanich countryside, with two of those programs also given at Muse Winery, by Deep Cove, on the preceding Saturday. There will also be a Friday evening concert at De Vine Vineyards, in Central Saanich. Moreover, the festival will spill into the first weekend of July, with two recitals by the American cellist Zuill Bailey.

The June 4-5 and 18-19 programs are built around the Muse Ensemble, a quartet of longtime EKSM regulars: violinist Terence Tam, the Victoria Symphony's concertmaster; Kenji Fuse, the orchestra's principal violist; cellist Laura Backstrom and pianist Lorraine Min. They are joined by guest performers as required. (Backstrom has co-directed the festival since 1999, and since last season with Min.)

This year’s programming, as usual, is a thoughtful mix of works big and small, familiar and obscure.

The June 4-5 program includes an early piano trio by Shostakovich and two works that will mark the EKSM début of Alana Despins, the Victoria Symphony’s principal horn player: Mozart’s popular Horn Quintet, K. 407, and the short, lovely Nocturno by Franz Strauss, who was a brilliant and renowned horn player, but is best known to posterity as Richard’s father. The program culminates in Brahms’s magnificent Piano Quartet in A Major, Op. 26.

The June 18-19 program comprises Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1, Ravel's lone string quartet, and a Brahmsian piano quintet by the Hungarian composer Ernö Dohnányi — his Op. 1, composed in 1895, when he was a teenaged music student.

On June 10 and 12, the Lafayette String Quartet, longtime artists in residence at the University of Victoria, will appear at EKSM for the first time, in concerts given in collaboration with Quartet Fest West. The four women will mark their 29 years as an ensemble by performing Haydn’s 29th quartet, Op. 33/No. 5. They will also perform Dvorák’s American Quartet, Op. 96, and Shostakovich’s Seventh. (The latter is a taste of things to come: Next February, at UVic., the Lafayette will perform all 15 of Shostakovich’s quartets as a cycle.)

The July 2 and 3 concerts are especially noteworthy, for Zuill Bailey, 44, is one of the world’s most acclaimed cellists. He has performed with the Victoria Symphony, in 2013 and 2015, but has never given a recital here.

Bailey is a busy international concert artist, and has recorded (for various labels) much of the standard cello literature. Since 2004, he has taught at the University of Texas at El Paso. He is also the artistic director of El Paso Pro Musica and of festivals in Alaska and Washington.

He has a reputation as an engaging performer who creates an intimate atmosphere in recital, in part through his gifts as a raconteur. He plays an instrument made in Venice in 1693 and his Harlequin Romance good looks don’t hurt, either. (Years ago, he appeared in episodes of the TV series Oz and Homicide.)

Both of Bailey’s EKSM recitals are collaborations with Lorraine Min. The two have known each other since they were students, first at the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore and later at the Juilliard School in New York, though they have never worked together before.

On July 2, they will perform sonatas by Boccherini, Prokofiev and Debussy, as well as a virtuoso showpiece by the great Ukrainian-American cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, from 1946: Variations on a Paganini Theme. (Yes, that Paganini theme.)

The July 3 concert will include the first three of Bach’s suites for unaccompanied cello, though No. 3 will be given in an intriguing manner: some parts in its original solo-cello form, other parts in Schumann’s rarely performed arrangement from 1853, with a piano adding what he called “harmonic support straps” to the cello line.

Bailey will play some additional short, encore-like pieces that he will announce from the stage, something he is apparently fond of doing in recitals.

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