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Louisiana Couple Featured in Taos Chamber Concert

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It was while playing with the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway that violinist Renata Arado and her husband, violist Espen Lilleslatten, met local cellist Sally Guenther.

Guenther spent 20 years as a solo cellist in the orchestra before moving to New Mexico in 2006. Through the years she has kept in touch with Arado and Lilleslatten, who played with the Norwegian ensemble for more than a decade and now live in Baton Rouge, where Lilleslatten is a professor of violin at Louisiana State University.

An integral member of Taos Chamber Music Group, Guenther suggested to the group’s artistic director and flutist Nancy Laupheimer that her musical comrades from Norway be invited to perform in Taos. Laupheimer readily agreed and brought the couple to New Mexico to play in a concert last fall.

Arado and Lilleslatten are back again in Taos, with their three school-age children in tow. They are featured in Taos Chamber Music Group’s “A French Fall” concert, which takes place this weekend in a private home in the Taos area.

“French music has a special feel to it,” Lilleslatten explained. “It’s a little difficult to describe but it is characterized by dissonances and whole-tone scales.”

The program includes works by Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Fauré and Jean-Michel Damase.

“Jean-Michel Damase’s music isn’t played much anywhere,” Lilleslatten said. “I’ve never played his music before. What I do know about him is that he wrote a lot of music for the harp and he was inspired by the French Impressionists.”

Born in 1928 in Bordeaux, France into a musical family that was spearheaded by his mother, renowned harpist Micheline Kahn, Damase began studying piano when he was 5 years old; he was composing by 9. By the time he was 15, he was awarded the Premier Prix in piano at the Paris Conservatoire. Four years later, the conservatory gave him an award in composition. Known for composing traditional works that honor the spirit of Ravel and Fauré, Damase is currently on the faculty at the École Normal de Musique de Paris.

Taos Chamber Music Group also will perform Damase’s quartet “15 Minutes,” which is written for flute, violin, viola and cello.

Also on the program are “Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor” by Fauré, which features pianist Debra Ayers, and “Duo Sonata for violin and cello” by Ravel, which is presented by Arado and Guenther.

Although Lilleslatten plays the violin quite often and has a group of violin students at LSU, he often plays the viola when he performs with his wife.

“We’re quite different, musically speaking,” said Lilleslatten about his taste in music versus Arado’s preferences. “I’m a little more conservative than she is. I would say that she is more adventuresome musically than I am.”

Performing in a private home is an unusual experience for Arado and Lilleslatten, who recently appeared as soloists in a concerto for two violins in Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall. Laupheimer says she likes this intimate setting, which can accommodate close to 100 guests.

“Last year we so enjoyed performing in this splendid home and especially appreciated the opportunity to visit with our audiences afterward,” she added.

Wine and cheese will be served following the concert.

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