That would be the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s long-time artistic director, Marc Neikrug, with whom I shared tortillas at Tia Sophia’s the other morn. He was supposed to talk about the 2014 season, opening July 20 at St. Francis Auditorium, but he’d just put the finishing touches on next year’s programming, and that’s where his head was at for the moment. Believe me, 2015’s grand finale concert will rock some boats, but that remains top secret for now.
Meanwhile, back to the tortillas. The 2014 fest brings 41 concerts and 70-some artists to venues here and in Albuquerque over five-plus weeks, with varied programming that’s more than generous with the three Bs. Note well, during the season’s final week, three concerts—August 20, 21 and 22—billed as “Beethoven’s Last.” That’s a mighty comprehensive term and a mighty grand undertaking as well.
Seriously inclusive, the programs offer the composer’s last works for string quartet, for shorter piano solo, for string quintet, his last piano trio, his last set of piano variations, and his last sonatas for piano and for cello and for violin. Monumental programming? You said it. And that’s not to mention plenty more Beethoven scattered throughout the summer.
As for the other two Bs, there’ll be lashings of Bach, including a couple of the partitas (thank you, youthful pianist Benjamin Hochman) and all the Brandenburgs. You want Brahms? You got Brahms, though not so much: a piano quartet (Op. 25), and quintet (Op. 34a), the cello sonatas and the glorious first string sextet (Op. 18).
Then, to leapfrog around a bodacious assortment of summer ops, note that those popular noon piano recitals come our way again, now with Jon Nakamatsu (all Schumann), Alessio Bax (mostly Russian), artist-in-residence Yefim Bronfman (Neikrug and Prokofiev) and Joseph Kalichstein (all Schubert). Then listen up for dynamite young mezzo, Sasha Cooke, singing Handel (La Lucrezia), Haydn (Arianna a Naxos) and a Lowell Lieberman premiere, Four Seasons, one of three SFCMF co-commissions. Says Neikrug, not especially modestly, “Expect the best singing of the summer.”
Quartets? The Orion guys, of course, plus the Dover, the FLUX, the Johannes and ever-pleasing Mark O’Connor’s four. Neikrug admits a fondness for two-item programs, one of which, pairing Mozart’s K.563 Divertimento with Messiaen’s ineffable Quartet for the End of Time, ranks high among the must-hear concerts of the summer.
Those other two co-commissions include Brett Dean’s intriguingly-titled String Quartet No. 2, “And once I played Ophelia,” and another String Quartet No. 2, this by English composer Julian Anderson, subtitled “300 Weihnachtslieder” (Happy Christmas, everyone). Expect spanking new string quartets by Ryan Chase and Tonia Ko, too, among works by the older generation’s Dallapiccola, Ligeti, Harbison, Kurtág, Martinů, Piazzolla and others.
On a final elegiac note, Neikrug touched on leadership losses the festival has suffered over the past few months: the deaths of William Zeckendorf, Charles Robinson and Toni Zavistovski, all three individuals of immense value to the organization. Neikrug, atypically, was near-silent: “What can I say, honestly, to describe what they meant to us? I can’t. Nobody can. All we can do is try to honor their memory.”
Abiding throughout this season, and the next and the next? That’s the truest way to remember. Shelley said it best: “Music, when soft voices die / Vibrates in the memory.”