chamber music string quartet summer festivals

it’s the people, stupid

This past week I’ve been rehearsing and performing at the Portland Piano International Festival as part of the Festival String Quartet.

The quartet is quite a collection of people to play with! Violinists Alex Kerr, concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony and professor of violin at Indiana University, Sarah Kwak, concertmaster of the Oregon Symphony, and Nancy Ives, principal cellist of the Oregon Symphony. What I love about working with people of that caliber is that they are usually always wonderful people to work with. So professional, true, but also easy going, confident, and pleasant. I often suffer from a major case of imposter syndrome, so having such amazing musicians being such supportive chamber music partners made me feel right at home.

Sarah Kwak rehearsing Sarasate with Arnaldo Cohen.

The first concert, on Friday, June 17, was with pianist Justin Bartlett, featured JS Bach’s Concerto No. 1, BWV 1052, and Franz Liszt’s Malediction, S. 121. Both were done with the accompaniment of the Festival String Quartet and double bassist Jason Schooler (Liszt).

The second concert, on Saturday, June 18, was a chamber music soirée with festival artistic director and pianist Arnaldo Cohen. Each of the members of the quartet played a piece from the Golden Age of Piano (1870-1930), which is the theme of this year’s festival. I opened the program with Liszt’s only work for viola, Romance oubliée (Forgotten romance), followed by Sarah playing Sarasate’s Introduction and Tarantelle, Nancy playing Chopin’s Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante, and Alex with Brahm’s FAE Scherzo. Arnaldo played a Brazilian solo piece that I wasn’t able to get the name of, and then we all joined together for the first movement of Brahms’ great Piano Quintet, Op. 34.

Nancy Ives plays Chopin with Arnaldo Cohen.
Nancy Ives plays Chopin with Arnaldo Cohen.

Tonight, Sunday, June 19, we join pianists Charlie Albright and Alexander Kobrin for an all-Chopin concert. With Charlie, we’ll be doing the Andante Spianato and Grande Polonaise, and with Alexander, the Piano Concerto No. 1. It’s quite tricky work, managing all of the rubato and the thick filigree of ornamentation that Chopin throws at us, but it should be a wonderful show. Tickets are available here.

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