Com­ing up in Philly music: Cur­tis Sum­mer­fest shakes up the scene

2 minute read
The Curtis faculty concerts attract a summer audience and build on legacy. (Image provided by Curtis Institute of Music.)
The Curtis faculty concerts attract a summer audience and build on legacy. (Image provided by Curtis Institute of Music.)

The opener at the next Curtis Summerfest faculty concert is a percussion piece that employs a small arsenal of shakers. It will be played by the arx duo, a pair of percussionists who have become leaders in the drive to make percussion works a standard feature of the chamber-music scene. They usually build their sound around the marimba, but shakers have a big practical advantage for a globetrotting twosome who've played on four continents: they can fit the whole ensemble in a backpack.

The rest of the program will bounce across the eras, with three pieces by the composers on the Summerfest faculty alternating with works by Ravel and Mendelssohn. One of the faculty composers, violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama, will double as a performer in her own duo for violin and viola. The other performers on the roster include two players who’ve become familiar faces to Philadelphia audiences; violinist Rebecca Harris and pianist Natalie Zhu.

The Mendelssohn entry will end the program with a double-barreled salute to tradition. Mendelssohn’s second trio for violin, cello, and piano is one of the standards of the chamber music repertoire, and its last movement finishes with the tune most Protestant congregations sing when they rise for the Doxology.

For years, many of us have complained that the Philadelphia music season fades away during the high point of the city’s tourist season. The Curtis Summerfest faculty concerts have proved a summer chamber music series can attract a substantial audience. Summerfest is an intensive educational program aimed at two types of students: young people ages 14 to 22 who are considering professional careers and older musicians, professional and amateur, who want to upgrade their skills. Its faculty are all Curtis graduates with thriving careers.

Curtis Summerfest will present its first Young Artists Faculty Recital on Friday, July 19, 2019, at 8pm at Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street. Tickets are $23 and they’re available online and at the door.

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