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Chamber Music Festival mixes masterpieces, the unusual

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The 45th season of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, which begins July 16, is typical of the ones Marc Neikrug has organized since 1998.

The piano duo Anderson & Roe will perform Aug. 17 at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

The season “has an ample number of iconic masterpieces from our cultural heritage: some Schumann, Brahms and Beethoven, a good dose of contemporary music and also a really good dose of unusual repertoire that people should hear,” said Neikrug, the festival artistic director. “There’s a tendency in the world of classical music, he said, to worry about attracting audiences, and that to draw them you have to play an “ever-shrinking number of the most famous pieces. My belief is exactly the opposite.”

Four of the more than 40 concerts this season are in Albuquerque, and those programs reflect Neikrug’s philosophy of presentation. The four concerts are at 7:30 p.m. July 20, July 27, Aug. 3 and Aug. 10 at Albuquerque Academy’s Simms Auditorium.

The July 20 concert opens with Mauro Giuliani’s Duo Concertante in E minor for Violin and Guitar. “It’s a big virtuoso piece,” Neikrug said, and features distinguished Polish guitarist Lukasz Kuropaczewski and violinist Jennifer Frautschi.

Giuliani was a major guitarist of the early 19th century and a prolific composer for guitar.

The program also has Antonín Dvorák’s Terzetto in C major and Felix Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor.

On the July 27 concert program are three works – Robert Schumann’s Fairy Tale Pictures, Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, which the Johannes String Quartet performs, and the world premiere of Neikrug’s String Trio.

“The original core of my piece had the title ‘Ruminations,’ and now the middle of the piece has a wondering, a ruminating about things, but then there are aggressive parts and very lyrical parts,” Neikrug said.

“It’s demanding for the players but that makes for excitement.” The Variation String Trio is performing it.

The Aug. 3 Albuquerque concert offers W.A. Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor, Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat major and two rarely performed works – Giacomo Puccini’s “Chrysanthemums” and Giuseppe Verdi’s String Quartet in E minor. They are the only chamber music pieces Puccini and Verdi composed; the Orion String Quartet will play both.

“They’re spectacular,” Neikrug said. “The Verdi is one of my favorite pieces. It’s what you’d expect by a composer who is one of the great composers for voice – very Italian, light, serenade-ish. The Puccini is a little bit short, very lyrical and very beautiful.”

For the Aug. 10 concert, the Miami String Quartet will play Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 5 in E-flat major. Also on the program are J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 4 in C minor and Krill Gersteinplaying the world premiere of another Neikrug piece, “Prism,” for solo piano.

Neikrug’s flair for presenting “the unusual” can be seen in the Aug. 17 concert at Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center. The first half has the piano duo Anderson & Roe playing Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos and three Astor Piazzolla compositions – “Primavera porteña”/”Oblivion”/”Libertango.”

The second half will be a fully staged version of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale,” with actor Wallace Shawn and led by violinist John Storgards.