By Michael Johns
USCB Chamber Music returns for its 2022-23, five-concert season with internationally respected
players, some new to the series and some audience favorites. Artistic Director, pianist and host Andrew Armstrong has carefully assembled programs that will inflame the passions, satisfy intellectual curiosity, and offer serene listening with vibrant sounds and pleasing melodies. He is offering twenty-four works by twenty-two different composers—male and female, young and old, spanning three centuries. There is something for everyone.
On Sunday, November 6, 5:00pm, the season begins with a spectacular splash of colors and styles. Featured works by American composers Julia Perry (Prelude for Piano) and Florence Price (Elfentanz for Viola and Piano), Ludwig van Beethoven (Trio for Clarinet, Cello and Piano, Opus 11), Maurice Ravel (Habanera and Rigaudon, from Le Tombeau de Couperin, arranged for French horn and Piano), Johan Halvorsen (Sarabande con variazione for Violin and Viola) will lead up to the dazzling concluding work, the hyper-romantic Sextet for Violin, Viola, Cello, Horn, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 37 by Ernst von Dohnányi.
Performing this varied array will be a stellar group of superb artists joining Mr. Armstrong: the
legendary Philip Meyers, principal horn of the New York Philharmonic from 1980-2017 who soloed with the orchestra every year of his tenure; Dominic Desautels, principal clarinetist at the Canadian Opera Company and adjunct assistant professor of clarinet at the University of Toronto; violist Beth Guterman Chu, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra principal viola since 2013 and a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center; violinist Arnaud Sussmann, winner of a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant, a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 2006, and worldwide soloist, recording artist and chamber musician; and cellist Alice Yoo, Co-founder and Co-Artistic director of the Denver Chamber Music Festival, faculty member at Colorado State University as well as the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music and a regular performer in numerous chamber music festivals.
The December 11 concert rings in the holidays with trios for flute, cello and piano by Louise Farrenc and Claude Debussy, Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata, Op 119 and Arron Copland’s Duo for Flute and Piano. Flutist Tara Helen O’Connor was a recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and is now a Season Artist of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Former USCB Chamber Music Artistic Director, cellist Edward Arron, makes a welcome return with his warm humanity, insightful musicianship, and impeccable technique.
On January 22, the Ehnes-Armstrong Duo will collaborate on the Franck Violin Sonata and
arrangements of two stunningly beautiful arias by Eric Korngold from his 1920 opera Die tote Stadt. Violinist James Ehnes is an artist in the middle of a major international performing career, and we are indeed fortunate that he has made Beaufort a stop on his itinerary during each of the past three seasons. Andy will return following intermission to perform the original piano version of Modest Mussorgsky’s monumental Pictures at an Exhibition. In addition to being a pianistic tour-de-force this performance will celebrate a grant from the SC Arts Commission supporting our collaboration with area high school art teachers and the USCB Art faculty. Mussorgsky conceived the score with specific pictures in mind, combining the power of the visual and audial arts. While Andy performs Pictures at an Exhibition, listeners will view selected artwork submitted by area juniors and seniors. Andy will then provide a special student concert on Monday morning where art awards and scholarships will be presented.
The February 19 concert exemplifies the idea that programming is more art than science. Its palindromic form moves from chatty, feel-good American entertainment to thought-provoking German inner depths and back out to New York sunshine, leaving listeners with a skip in their step and a re-nourished soul. Beginning with George Gershwin (I Got Rhythm, for Piano) and ending with Samuel Barber’s saucy, splashy Souveniers, for Piano 4-hands, Op. 28, the meaty middle features Brahms (“Intermezzo” and “Capriccio” from Fantasien, Op. 116 for Piano), Robert Schumann (Dichterliebe “A Poet’s Love,” for Tenor and Piano. Op. 48), Franz Schubert, (Fantasia in F minor, for Piano 4-hands, D. 940) and Richard Strauss (Morgan! “Tomorrow,” Op. 27, No. 4, for Tenor and Piano.) Andy will be joined by fellow pianist Orion Weiss, an Avery Fisher Career Grant winner, repeat concerto performer with major U.S. orchestras, including those of Boston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and a frequent chamber music collaborator. Joining the pianists will be Cantor Daniel Mutlu, who has sung with preeminent organizations and houses of worship, most notably in the Trinity Choir Wall Street, the Houston Symphony, the Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Bach Society, and as the main cantorial soloist for the Night Holocaust Project on international tours.
The season’s final concert, on March 12, has three works: William Grant Still’s tender Suite for
Violin and Piano, Arno Babajanian’s passionate, romantic Piano Trio in F-sharp minor, and one of Felix Mendelssohn’s greatest and most popular chamber works, Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 49. Violinist Amy Schwartz Moretti, equally versatile as a chamber musician, concertmaster, and educator and Juilliard-trained Raphael Bell, a principal cellist, chamber musician, teacher, and festival director across Europe and the US, will join our extraordinarily talented Artistic Director. Hearing him on a regular basis has spoiled series subscribers as they have come to expect his witty and unscripted stage remarks, brilliant pianism, and artistic intensity. Not one to sit on his laurels while away from Beaufort, Andy recently recorded a new solo album of American composers for release on an international label in 2023 and has readied himself for November 2022 performances of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonata cycle with James Ehnes in Melbourne, Australia.
Each of these artists has invested a significant portion of their career to the emotionally fulfilling creation of chamber music, where involvement with colleagues and audience is personal in scale and intense in conversation. The difference between the Beaufort and New York City chamber music scenes is that here the artists do most of the traveling. For the audience, the drive is shorter and parking is less expensive. The talent of the performers, however, it the same.
It is possible to listen and watch almost all of this season’s music as a YouTube video on your phone or in HD. That awareness generates a type of detached exposure but does not create magic. For a deeper immersion one needs to be in a silent, darkened performance space at a specific time, surrounded by fellow audience members, watching and listening to brilliant performers bring to life skillfully crafted works of human invention. When these attributes converge it creates an experience larger than the sum of its elements. It’s also one-and-done. The hundreds of intimate connections seen and heard during the performance will never be repeated exactly as you experience them at that moment.
Join us for USCB Chamber Music’s impressive 43rd season. There are multiple ways to enjoy the concerts—In Person, Live-Stream and On-Demand. All virtual concerts are professionally produced, creating great viewing opportunities. On-Demand is accessible four days after the concert and available to view at your leisure for three weeks. For concert/ticket information, go to www.uscbchambermusic.com or call 843-208-8246, Monday through Friday. All concerts will be at the USCB Center for the Arts on Carteret Street at 5:00 pm on the following Sundays: November 6, December 11, January 22, February 19 and March 12.