Much goes into the planning of the annual Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, but the true backbone of a successful Festival is the engagement of world-class musicians and the selection of inspiring musical programming that creates an intimate bond between the performers and the audience. This is the responsibility of the Festival’s co-artistic directors, cellist Marcy Rosen and violinist Catherine Cho.
The 36th annual Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival will be held June 4–12 at its new home, the Ebenezer Theater at 17 South Washington Street in Easton, Maryland. The Festival’s two-week program of six concerts featuring 15 artists will be presented live as well as streamed on the web. For this year’s Festival, Marcy and Cathy have created a compelling program of chamber music masterworks by Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, and Schumann, among others, as well as intimate duo performances of music by Joseph Bologne, William Grant Still, William Bolcom, and Amy Beach.
The Festival’s opening extravaganza on June 4 will introduce Chesapeake Music’s new Steinway & Sons concert grand piano and feature Mozart’s Piano Trio in G Major and Dvořák’s Piano Quartet in E-flat Major. On June 11, the piano will again be in the spotlight with performances of Mozart’s Piano Trio in C Major, Beethoven’s Serenade in D Major, and Schubert’s Fantasia for Piano, Four Hands, in F minor.
“I really, really wanted to play the Mozart piano trio in C Major! – but I needed to give it to another cellist [Timothy Eddy],” Marcy exclaimed in a recent interview. “It’s important, after all, to distribute the repertoire fairly evenly among the performers at a festival. It’s going to be beautiful! – I don’t get to play it, but I get to listen. Fortunately, I do get to play in the Mozart G Major piano trio at the opening concert. So, I’m happy with that.”
After choosing the Festival participants, Marcy and Cathy ask the musicians what they would like to perform, and from those suggestions, they endeavor to create concert programs that are both audience-pleasing as well as interesting for the artists to work on. Given time constraints, the musicians aren’t able to rehearse together until they come to Easton on May 31st. They then spend their time in day-long rehearsals on preparation for the Festival. This was not always the case, as Marcy recalled, “In the early years of the Festival, we only had one or two concerts, so there was time for sailing on the rivers or the bay, but with these expanded concerts, we don’t have time to do that now! It’s the growth of the Festival that is most amazing to me over these 36 years, starting with that first concert which we did in somebody’s house, growing to what is now two weeks of concerts and building the faithful audience that we have.” She later added, “Each year, audience members say, ‘This was the best Festival ever!’ and so we want to try to meet that standard and be the best Festival yet once again!”
There will also be a bit of déjà vu at this year’s Festival. At one of the early Festivals, pianist Diane Walsh, clarinetist Lawrie Bloom, and Marcy performed Beethoven’s Clarinet Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11. “This was one of the first pieces we played way back when –,” Marcy explained, “and we will play that piece together again – bringing it full circle from when we were kids!”
All chamber music festivals are almost certain to include some of the great masterworks, and this year’s Festival is no exception. However, Marcy and Cathy have also included some little-known compositions as well as compositions by women and composers of color, who historically have been underrepresented in chamber music programming. “Diversity is very important to classical music,” Marcy stated, “and diverse and inclusive programming is now much more prevalent in classical music organizations.” Marcy and Cathy hope to be able to include interesting new works and premiers in future Festival programming.
The live-streaming of the Festival concerts from the Ebenezer Theater is also new for Chesapeake Chamber Music. Marcy is very interested in this opportunity, “I think that virtual concerts—like the Virtual Virtuosi! concert last year— helped Chesapeake Chamber Music broaden its exposure tremendously. So, we now will reach more people than we ever have. The Virtual Virtuosi! concert was really one of the first to make the necessary shift during the pandemic from live to virtual. And it was all due to the musicians’ willingness to make ‘home movies’ or stream available pre-recorded concerts. But that was low-tech, and now everything is wonderfully high-tech. There’s been a quick learning curve on everybody’s part to make virtual concerts better and better. I believe that concerts will continue to be live before an audience as well as live-streamed as we go forward. I hope Chesapeake Chamber Music will continue to do both, and I think the new theater will make this possible. But I do think that people are still most interested to attend concerts in person.”
“We have programmed a lot of really exciting music for this Festival,” Marcy added. “I’m very excited to watch Diane Walsh and Ieva Jokubaviciute perform the two Schumann pieces for four hands seated at the same piano. And Diane and Robert McDonald will do the same, performing Schubert’s beautiful Fantasy in F minor at another concert.” Cathy added, “And for the first time we’ll have violist Molly Carr, who was recently featured in the ‘Rising Stars’ concert, as well as the Orion String Quartet playing Brahms’ great Piano Quintet in F minor – this is very exciting!”
“I’m excited about all the performances,” Marcy remarked, “those I’m in and those I watch. It will be wonderful to go back to doing what we do; these have been very lean times for all of us. Playing for an empty hall – you have to give every ounce of your being and imagine that there’s an audience enjoying and responding to this incredible music. Having a real live audience opens huge doors for us! And what’s great about the Festival is the time we get to spend with one another – performers and audience members. We are greatly looking forward to being able to share this music with as many people as possible this summer.”
Sponsors of this year’s Festival include Talbot Arts, the Maryland State Arts Council, Paul and Joanne Prager, and our donors. Chesapeake Music now has additional tickets for sale for all six in-theater Festival concerts. Please go to chesapeakemusic.org to order tickets for the in-theater or live-streamed performances or for a complete program listing.