After Labor Day, and with the final, glorious 16 massive concluding D Major chords of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at Tanglewood, the region's classical performances change direction and focus on the more private side of the art form: Symphonic, operatic and choral extravaganzas give way to intimate chamber music.
During August in Williamstown, we have the "Chamber Music at The Clark" series of concerts - four Tuesday evenings where the finest in chamber music can be heard in The Clark's commodious auditorium.
Adding to the mix, with two previous concerts and now an upcoming concert on Sunday, a new winter chamber music series has emerged at The Clark - a series that features the talents of cellist Edward Arron and his stellar instrumentalist colleagues; it's called "Performing Artists-in-Residence at The Clark."
Arron, the curator and artistic director of these programs, is based in Manhattan, and is a virtuoso luminary in the chamber music demimonde there, where he is the artistic director of the Metropolitan Museum's "Artists in Concert," a chamber music series created in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Museum's prestigious "Concerts and Lectures" series. He is also the artistic director of the "Caramoor Virtuosi" - the resident chamber ensemble of the Caramoor International Music Festival, located in bucolic Katonah, New York.
In a phone interview, Arron spoke with me about his vision for the series, and about the upcoming concert at The Clark on March 10th. "The concept of instituting the "Artists-in-Residence" series at The Clark started small.
I invited Mr. Arron to express his thoughts on the upcoming program, which looks to be very diverse and colorful, as it features both two familiar masterworks alongside two 20th-century rarities.
"The two ‘anchors' of the program are masterworks by Beethoven and Robert Schumann. Beethoven's Op. 16 is a transformation of his Quintet for piano and oboe, clarinet, horn and bassoon, which was composed in 1796, and was inspired by the great masterpiece by Mozart written for the same instruments in 1784. In this version, the three stringed instruments take the place of the four winds. The piece is one of Beethoven's most genial works, and it's great fun to perform."
"The second ‘anchor' is the tremendously moving Quartet for Piano and Strings, Op. 47, composed by Schumann in 1843. In this masterwork, Schumann looks back to Beethoven's Piano Quartet as a model for his own work."
About the two rather obscure works by Leos Janacek (1854-1928) and Bohuslav Martinu (1890-1959,) Arron had this to say: "In planning the program, we were looking for contrast and found it in these two relatively brief, post-Dvorak works by two master 20th-century Czech composers. Janacek's "Pohadka" (Fairy Tales) for cello and piano are wonderful pieces; each uses very vivid sound colors that show a distinctive sense of modernism, while Martinu's Three Madrigals for violin and viola feature spicy harmonies and really great propulsive dance rhythms. The piece is very Dvorak-like with its infectious peasant melodies, but it's also quite modern-sounding as well."
An insightful feature of these concerts is that the four instrumentalists are featured in both collaborative and solo turns.
This allows for the programming of varied and unfamiliar music alongside traditional repertoire, and for the audience to become engaged with each performer as he/she takes center stage.
At this artistic level, there's no doubt the concert will offer a treat for listeners, with something for everyone - all in a variety of styles - from Classical to Romantic to audience-friendly, folk-inspired modern music.
"Performing Artists-in-Residence at The Clark," Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m. Ticket prices: $25 - General admission. $20 - Clark members. $10 for students. For information: clarkart.edu, 413-458- 0524.
The Clark Art Institute is located at 225 South St., Williamstown.