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Chatter concerts balance intimacy and informality

Pianist Judith Gordon is returning to Albuquerque to play two Chatter concerts. (Courtesy of Chatter)

Pianist Judith Gordon is returning to Albuquerque to play two Chatter concerts. (Courtesy of Chatter)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — To boost or even maintain ticket sales beyond glittering concert halls, some music organizations have placed string quartets in pubs.

Often compared to the salon-style concerts of the 18th and 19th centuries, advocates cite increased intimacy. Think Bach, Bartók and beer.

At least one musician says some promoters have pushed the laid-back trend too far for comfort. But Albuquerque’s Chatter has found a comfortable balance.

“Chatter is this perfect mix,” pianist Judith Gordon said in a telephone interview from Copenhagen. “It’s not an overcorrection. It really feels natural and we practice hard. We rehearse quite enthusiastically. Everybody’s serious because everybody’s serious, not because everybody’s dressed up. I love the feeling that the concerts really matter.”

The pianist, who has performed with everyone from Yo-Yo Ma to the Boston Pops, is returning to Albuquerque for two Chatter concerts on Nov. 16 and 23.

Chatter presents a full spectrum of chamber music from Baroque through the 20th century in unconventional and intimate venues between sips of coffee or wine.

Between teaching at Smith College, Gordon has appeared at Chatter numerous times since 2012. Her upcoming performances will feature a new composition by Chatter associate artistic director James Shields, as well as Mozart’s Sonata for Piano and Violin.

“I feel like now it’s basically this great extended family of players and singers,” Gordon said. “It’s a very distinctive atmosphere. Each visit is so refreshing.”

The Nov. 16 program features three works with violinist and Chatter artistic director David Felberg: “Distance de Fee” by Toru Takemitsu; “Disco” by Louis Andriessen and the Mozart.

“They’re polar opposites,” Gordon said. The Takemitsu evokes a jazzy atmosphere, while “Disco” is as rhythmic as its name.

“I hear a little Chaka Khan reference,” she added.

The Mozart “just felt like a good ballast for the contemporary piece,” she continued, ” – something a bit more grounding.”

“Planning a program is like planning a meal or an outfit – you don’t want everything to be purple.”

On Nov. 23, Gordon will play a “Sextet for Winds and Piano” by Francis Poulenc with help from a group of wind players that includes Shields. She has not seen the music to Shields’ “Of Observation and Experience II” yet.

“All I know is that it’s happening,” Gordon said. “I’m coming back to the States in a week, so hopefully, there will be a PDF in the mail soon.”

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