The Smithsonian Chamber Music Society (SCMS) celebrates its 30th season with two performance series featuring musical masterpieces from the late 17th to the 20th century.
Presented by the Smithsonian Associates, the SCMS will offer “Masterworks of Four Centuries” and “The Axelrod Quartet: Stradivarius and Amati,” featuring the Society’s acclaimed artists, including the Axelrod String Quartet, the Castle Trio and special guests as they perform on some of the most well-known musical instruments in the world. The SCMS, in residence at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, will perform in other acoustically appropriate venues around the city, including the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the French Embassy while the museum is closed for a major two-year renovation. One hour prior to each program, SCMS artistic director Kenneth Slowik will continue his popular pre-concert lectures, shedding light on the music and the life and times of the featured composers.
“Masterworks of Four Centuries”
The Smithsonian Chamber Music Society will commemorate its 30th season with an appropriately eclectic line up. Three founding members of the Smithsonian Chamber Players, Marilyn McDonald, Kenneth Slowik, and James Weaver, present a program of Baroque favorites. Malcolm Bilson, considered by many the dean of American fortepianists, returns to continue the 2006 Mozart anniversary celebration with distinguished Dutch violinist Vera Beths. Former Axelrod Quartet members Ian Swensen and Steven Dann join the Vancouver Symphony’s concertmaster Mark Fewer for an evening of French quartets at the French Embassy. Grammy Award-winning pianist Lambert Orkis anchors the Castle Trio in Beethoven’s majestic Archduke Trio and Schubert’s E-flat Major trio, which Robert Schumann described as “blazing across ordinary musical life like an angry portent in the skies.” Finally, under Slowik’s direction, the Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra brings two of Shostakovich’s trenchant chamber symphonies and Beethoven’s fascinating “Große Fuge” to the ravishing acoustical environment of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Sunday, Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m.
Malcolm Bilson, fortepiano; Vera Beths, violin; and Kenneth Slowik, violoncello; present Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata in F Major, Op. 5, No. 1; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Sonata in A Major, K526; Trio in B-flat Major, K502. Location of this concert TBA.
Sunday, Jan. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Marilyn McDonald, violin; Kenneth Slowik, viola da gamba; and James Weaver, harpsichord; present Music of Bach, Buxtehude, Marais and Rameau. Location of this concert TBA.
Sunday, March 11, 7:30 p.m.
Conductor Kenneth Slowik and The Smithsonian Chamber Orchestra present Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Große Fuge,” Op. 133; and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony Opp. 73bis and 83bis in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Sunday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.
Ian Swensen and Mark Fewer, violins; Steven Dann, viola; and Kenneth Slowik, violoncello; present Luigi Cherubini’s String Quartet No. 2 in C Major; George Onslow’s Quartet in F-sharp Minor, Op. 46, No. 1 and Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet at the French Embassy.
Sunday, April 22, 7:30 p.m.
Lambert Orkis, fortepiano; Marilyn McDonald, violin; Kenneth Slowik, violoncello; present Ludwig van Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97, the “Archduke” and Franz Schubert’s Trio in E-flat Major, D929. Location of this concert TBA.
“The Axelrod Quartet: Stradivarius and Amati”
Smithsonian Chamber Music Society audiences may experience an unparalleled offering when they hear two magnificent quartets of instruments—one made by Antonio Stradivari, the other by his teacher Nicoló Amati—on this popular series, which returns to the refined atmosphere of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Grand Salon. The concerts feature works from four different centuries, including a set of Henry Purcell’s miniature but masterful “Fantazias,” one of Haydn’s earliest quartets, contributions by Beethoven and Bartók (the most important exponents of the quartet in the 19th and 20th centuries), Mendelssohn’s meditation on Beethoven’s Op. 132, Schubert’s lyrical “Rosamunde” quartet, Janacek’s Tolstoy-inspired “Kreutzer Sonata,” Debussy’s only contribution to the genre and Erwin Schulhoff's brilliant “Five Pieces.” The audience can discover for themselves why Johann Wolfgang von Goethe likened the experience of listening to a quartet to “eavesdropping on a conversation among four intelligent people.”
Saturday, Oct. 28, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 29, 7:30 p.m.
The Axelrod String Quartet presents Joseph Haydn’s Quartet in C Major, Op. 1, No. 6; Béla Bartók’s Quartet No. 2, Op. 17 and Franz Schubert’s Quartet in A Minor, D804, “Rosamunde,” in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Saturday, Feb. 10, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m.
The Axelrod String Quartet presents Henry Purcell’s “Fantazias”; Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G Minor, Op. 10 and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Quartet in A Minor, Op. 132 in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Saturday, Apr. 28, 8 p.m. and Sunday, Apr. 29, 7:30 p.m.
The Axelrod String Quartet presents Erwin Schulhof’s Five Pieces for String Quartet, Leoš Janácek’s Quartet No. 1, the “Kreuzer Sonata” and Felix Mendelssohns’s Quartet in A Minor, Op. 13 in the Grand Salon of the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Tickets are required and may be purchased in advance by series or individually at the door when available. For information about locations, ticket prices or to purchase tickets, call (202) 357-3030 or visit http://residentassociates.org/perf-arts/chamber.asp.
“Masterworks of Four Centuries” series tickets are $95 for Smithsonian Associates members, $85 for senior members and $115 for non-members. “The Axelrod Quartet” series tickets are $66 for members, $60 for senior members and $84 for non-members. Individual ticket prices were not available at press time.
Note: Critics should call the media office listed above to arrange for tickets and information.
Special holiday concerts:
SCMS artistic director Kenneth Slowik conducts Handel’s “Messiah” performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and the Cathedral Choral Society along with soloists Christine Brandes, Jennifer Lane, John Elwes and Nathaniel Watson at the Kennedy Center, Dec. 21-24. For tickets, call the Kennedy Center at (202) 467-4600 or visit www.kennedy-center.orgafter October 11.
The National Museum of American History, located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue N.W., will be closed for major renovations beginning Sept. 5. For more information, visit the museum’s Web site atamericanhistory.si.edu or call (202) 633-1000.
The Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. For information, visitamericanart.si.edu/renwick, or call (202) 633-1000.
The Embassy of France is located at 4101 Reservoir Road N.W. For information, visit www.ambafrance-us.org