ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Pianist Robert Tweten is one of Taos Chamber Music Group’s special guest performers during next weekend’s “Heaven Sent” concert. Based in Santa Fe, Tweten has an active career as a chamber musician and operatic conductor. During the late spring through late summer, he practically lives at the Santa Fe Opera since he is head of its music staff. Among his many responsibilities are coaching singers and assisting in the selection of the season’s apprentices.
Taos Chamber Music Group’s artistic director Nancy Laupheimer uses Tweten’s talents by programming Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 2 in C minor for violin, cello and piano. This 1845 work is challenging for pianists, Tweten said.
“Mendelssohn was a pianist, so he wrote for himself,” he added. “He had a very specific technique. I find the piano part incredibly hard.”
One of Tweten’s favorite group of pieces, Robert Schumann’s Fantasy Pieces for clarinet and piano, also is on the program.
“The piano and clarinet have pretty equal parts,” he explained. “Through the years I’ve played this work with different combinations of instruments. The clarinet, to me, is one of the most beautiful instruments. This is a very lyrical and beautiful piece for the clarinet. The piano weaves in and out of the clarinet’s part. There’s a lot of going back and forth within the melodic lines.”
The concert’s clarinetist is Keith Lemmons, who is on the faculty at the University of New Mexico. Lemmons plays with a large number of New Mexico-based ensembles and has been a soloist and judge at the International ClarinetFest in Portugal.
“I’ve played with Keith at different times through the years, but I think the last time we performed together was in 2012,” said Tweten.
Tweten and Lemmons are joined by Laupheimer (flute) to play Katy Abbott’s “Making Angels,” which was written in 2001. Abbott is an Australian-based composer whose works have been performed, published and recorded around the world. She won the 2013 Boston Metro Opera Gold Medal for Art-Song for her song-cycle “The Domestic Sublime” and the 2011 Albert H. Maggs Award for Composition. Currently she is working on an orchestral piece for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Education Arm.
“This is a mood piece with lots of rhythmic changes going on,” said Tweten. “The same themes go back and forth between instruments. I understand that Abbott was inspired by Michelangelo’s sculptures when she wrote this piece.”
A work by another Australian composer is on the program. “Ecstatic Dance #2” by Ross Edwards will be played by Laupheimer and violinist Espen Lilleslatten.
“Ross Edwards’ music is strongly rooted in the cultural diversity and natural environment of his country, particularly birdsong and the polyphonic patterns and drones of insects, as well as traditional ritual and dance,” said Laupheimer. “One of two ‘Ecstatic Dances’ originally written for flute duo, the second dance has been frequently arranged. Taos Chamber Music Group will present a version for flute and violin.”
Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s “Divertimento,” which was commissioned by the New York State Music Teachers Association in 1984, will be played by Laupheimer, Lemmons, Lilleslatten and cellist Sally Guenther.