As the 2012-13 classical music season starts to wind down this month, many local groups are taking their last shots at regular-season performances before the sweltering summer kicks in. Upcoming concerts by two of Atlanta’s well-established chamber music groups have something in common that isn’t repertoire: they each will feature a California-born guest artist and include a highly listenable work by an established Atlanta composer among more traditional fare. There the similarity ends.
The first of these, on Sunday, May 5 at the Schwartz Center for Performing Arts, is the final installment of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta’s 20th-anniversary season. The resident Vega String Quartet — violinists Domenic Salerni and Jessica Shuang Wu, violist Yinzi Kong and cellist Guang Wang — will be at the core of the performance, performing “Suite Latina” by Juan R. Ramirez, a longtime violinist in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
Commissioned and premiered in 2002 by the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival, “Suite Latina” is possibly Ramírez’s most-performed and best-known composition, incorporating an array of Latin dances in its three movements, including Bolero, Mambo, Guajira, Milong, Tango, Habanera, Son, Rumba and Samba.
The violinists of the Vega Quartet, Salerni and Wu, will also be featured as soloists in the Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins, BWV 1043, by Johann Sebastian Bach with the Society Chamber Orchestra, a gathered ensemble of about a dozen players.
Then there is native Californian Tim Fain, a young violinist who landed a credited cameo role in Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 psycho-thriller film “The Black Swan” and overdubbed Richard Gere’s violin in 2005’s “The Bee Season.” He typically performs the standard violin repertoire and music by interesting but approachable composers such as Philip Glass, Aaron Jay Kernis and William Bolcom. But for this, his Atlanta debut, Fain will be the featured soloist for Vivaldi’s complete “The Four Seasons,” two of which were heard at last week’s ASO concert with Itzhak Perlman.
Two days after that concert, on Tuesday, May 7, the Atlanta Chamber Players will perform the final concert of their season at the New American Shakespeare Tavern, a venue the group has returned to annually. It offers the same kind of informality as Eddie’s Attic, with tables and food service, but as a dinner theater it is necessarily a larger, more open venue.
The concert will kick off with Bohuslav Martinů’s vigorously virtuosic String Trio No. 2, born of the creative hotbed that was Paris in 1934, to be performed by violinist Helen Hwaya Kim, violist Catherine Lynn and cellist Brad Ritchie.
Like Ramirez, composer and contrabassist Michael Kurth is a member of the ASO. He has been getting a great deal of play and visibility recently, seeming to pop up in concerts all over the city. In this instance, it’s a world premiere: “The Hedgehog Tree, and Other Bequests.” It’s scored for an unusual quartet of oboe (alternating on English horn), clarinet (alternating on bass clarinet), viola and cello.
The title is the premise of a fable the composer concocted during a traffic jam to amuse his three daughters. The titles of each movement refer to prominent character traits each daughter possesses. “Olivia, the eldest, is empathetic beyond her years,” writes Kurth. “Audrey, the middle daughter, is inquisitive and thoughtful, but often reticent; and Eliza, the youngest, makes friends easily and well, and has enviable social gifts and graces.”
Their featured guest will be pianist Alexander Wasserman, a Los Angeles native who will join with the ACP to perform the Piano Trio No. 2 in C Major by Johannes Brahms. Wasserman now resides in Atlanta with his wife, Jessica Oudin, who joined the ASO as a member of its viola section in 2011.
Click here to learn about the 18th-century violin Tim Fain will play in Atlanta.