For most BSR readers who follow chamber music, the best-known performer at the second Curtis Summerfest faculty concert will be flutist Mimi Stillman, founder of the Dolce Suono Ensemble. Stillman graduated from Curtis in 1999, at an age when the average American is still coping with high school, and most of the other players on the program will be musicians who graduated after her. Violinist Ray Chen, for example, entered Curtis when he was 15 and started his post-graduate career in 2010, when the economic situation had many people wondering if classical music could survive. Chen has accumulated all the critical acclaim a performer could ask for but he’s also noted for the way he uses the internet. Chen is an online showman who promotes the idea that classical musicians are “funny people” with “a great product.” He will open the evening with one of the great challenges in the violin repertoire, the chaconne from Bach’s Partita in D minor.
The other older piece on the program will be an 1897 arrangement of a Handel passacaglia by the Norwegian composer Johann Halvorson. Halvorson turned a Baroque harpsichord piece into a duo for violin and cello that includes several of the more exotic sounds string players can draw from their instruments.
The two newer pieces on the program are both recent works by composers on the Summerfest faculty. David Ludwig’s Nigunim is a trio for flute, violin, and piano that takes its title from the Hebrew word for certain types of Jewish religious songs. Dmitri Tymoczko’s Cathedral is a trio for flute, viola, and harp by a composer who says he’s a “failed former philosopher who loves to think about how music works.”
Curtis Summerfest is an intensive educational program that serves two types of students: young people who are considering professional careers and older musicians, professional and amateur, who want to upgrade their skills. In the last four years, the Summerfest faculty concerts have provided irrefutable evidence that Philadelphia can support a high-quality chamber-music series at the height of the summer season.
Curtis Summerfest will present its second 2019 Young Artists Faculty Recital on Friday, July 26 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.