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Chamber fest plans a blowout

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Light the candles on the cake. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary season.

Festival artistic director Marc Neikrug has been planning a summer season that will have a dynamic that should be visible – and, of course, audible – in terms of programs, performers and composers-in-residence. And there’s a special event – a symposium on music, the brain, medicine and wellness.

This season, Neikrug said in a phone interview, “is kind of our regular sort of programming, but on steroids. Maybe.”

If you go
WHAT: Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
WHEN: July 15-Aug. 18
WHERE: In Santa Fe at the Lensic Performing Arts Center, 211 W. San Francisco, and St. Francis Auditorium in New Mexico Museum of Art, 107 W. Palace; in Albuquerque at the Simms Performing Arts Center at Albuquerque Academy, 6400 Wyoming NE
HOW MUCH: Tickets and a full schedule of concerts are available by visiting www.sfcmf.org, by calling 505-982-1890 or toll-free 888-221-9836

One example is the presentation of four pieces that he said are too big to be played by a small chamber ensemble and too small for an orchestra the size of the New York Philharmonic or the New Mexico Philharmonic. The four are Alban Berg’s Chamber Concerto for Violin, Piano & 13 Wind Instruments; Arnold Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphonies No. 1 and No. 2; and Richard Strauss’ Sonatina No. 1 for 16 Wind Instruments.

“That’s an interesting genre of pieces that falls in between the cracks of presenters,” Neikrug said. “All of those size pieces need to be conducted.”

Oliver Knussen will conduct the Berg. Alan Gilbert, the music director of the New York Philharmonic, will conduct the other three. Gilbert, who is the festival’s artist-in-residence, will also play in some smaller chamber works.

In addition, Neikrug said, the festival is splurging by having four commissioned works, more than usual.

“And I’m very excited about those because they also exactly exemplify my sense of how we need to be commissioning pieces,” he said.

The first of the four commissioned pieces to be performed will be “Snow and Snow” for clarinet, viola and piano, by young Scottish composer Helen Grime.

“Helen Grime is incredibly accomplished and mature. She has a great sense of how to write for instruments and a great sense of shaping a piece. All of her pieces are beautifully formed, make sense and communicate to audiences. It’s real music,” Neikrug said.

Grime’s work will be on the season’s July 15 opening concert with Johannes Brahms’ Piano Trio No. 2 in C major and Ernst von Dohnányi’s Serenade in C major. All three are trios.

Neikrug said these particular trios are an example of his programming style.

“There’s a brand-new piece by a young person, Grime. There’s another piece that’s not heard that much, Dohnányi. And there’s an iconic Romantic-Classical trio by Brahms,” he said.

Taken together, it’s a full concert that Neikrug said every patron should enjoy “whether or not you anticipate that you will. It’s a fantastic variety to be consumed by everybody. That’s what I try to do for any concert.”

In addition to Grime, the other three commissioned works on the season are a yet-to-be-titled work by Magnus Lindberg, Aaron Jay Kernis’ “Perpetual Chaconne” and David Del Tredici’s String Quartet No. 2. The Del Tredici is a co-commission with South Mountain Concerts. The Lindberg and the Grime are world premieres.

Neikrug said the festival board allowed him to spend extra money for this season to hire more musicians and to pay for more commissions so long as he returns to frugality next season.

The festival’s anniversary season also will host several famous ensembles.

One is the Guarneri String Quartet, which several years ago retired as a publicly performing ensemble. As a result its members are playing in larger ensembles at festival concerts.

The others include the Miró Quartet, the Orion String Quartet and the Tokyo String Quartet, which Neikrug said is closing out the festival’s season and will retire soon.

The festival is maintaining its tradition of offering a number of concerts in series. There are the Music of the Masters, Bach Plus 5, Music at Noon and Modern Masters.

It also is presenting a world music concert on Aug. 17 with the Latin jazz ensemble Tiempo Libre and three Albuquerque concerts at the Simms Performing Arts Center of Albuquerque Academy on July 18, July 25 and Aug. 1.

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