Festival offers ensemble treats
When you think of chamber music, the string quartet gets “the lion’s share’’ of respect, says pianist Stephen Deitz. The Duxbury Music Festival feeds the lion this year with a strong program of string quartets, enriched by works that expand on the foundation of stringed instruments with piano and woodwinds.
“For chamber music, the string quartet is at the top of the list, the regal ensemble,’’ said Deitz, the festival’s director.
The festival, which gets underway today for its student musicians, is a 20-day intensive program for the study and performance of solo and chamber repertoire for college music students and professors. A series of faculty concerts, including Sunday’s concert in a private home overlooking the sea in Cohasset, raises money to support the study program and provides summer treats for South Shore music lovers.
Eighteen students, many of them living or studying in the Boston area, will be tuning up in Duxbury. Violinist Sarah Atwood, a second-year Boston University College of Fine Arts student, chose Duxbury’s festival for the opportunity to do more work with her teacher, Bayla Keyes, an associate professor at BU.
“In the music world, the most growth you make for yourself is through your private teacher,’’ Atwood said. “All your individual technical work helps you grow as an artist.’’
The hothouse experience of a festival encourages student musicians to keep working at a high level during their down time from school. “It’s easier to practice when you have a goal ahead of you than just for the unknown,’’ Atwood said.
Sunday’s faculty concert features a string quartet by Beethoven.
“Haydn is regarded as the father of the string quartet, but it was really Beethoven who made it what it was,’’ said Deitz, a concert pianist who taught at the South Shore Conservatory of Music, the festival’s parent organization, before moving to California. “The festival opens with a quartet by Beethoven and ends with one by [Maurice] Ravel,’’ an early 20th-century master, he said.
Other major works on the festival schedule include a piano quintet by Dohnanyi and a piece by Eric Korngold, who was a popular film music composer. Also on the summer’s bill is a chamber piece featuring bassoon, oboe, and clarinet by Florent Schmitt, a contemporary of Ravel in France who was well known in his lifetime but has fallen into neglect. “I discovered his music one night when I couldn’t sleep,’’ Deitz said. “A piano and woodwind trio - this is an incredible work.’’
“We have some odd combinations, a piece with clarinet and cello,’’ Deitz said. “A steady diet of only piano and strings can make for a monochromatic sound.’’
Formed into six chamber groups, students will tackle major pieces such as a piano quartet by Cesar Franck; a string quartet by Samuel Barber that was the basis for his orchestral work “Adagio for Strings,’’ one of the best-loved works of the 20th century; the third string quartet by Shostakovich; and piano trios by Debussy and Spanish composer Joaquín Turina.
Sunday’s concert takes place at the home of Motoko and Gordon Deane. “It’s phenomenal,’’ said Amy Schomp, the festival coordinator, of the setting. “It’s on Cohasset Harbor.’’
In addition to the Beethoven, the program includes the Dohnanyi quintet and French composer Jacques Ibert’s “Cinq Pieces en Trio.’’
Monday and Wednesday are the first of a number of free student recitals at the Ellison Center for the Arts in Duxbury, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. is a faculty concert at a Duxbury home that includes a piano trio by Brahms and a duo by Mozart, among other chamber works.
Thursday will see another faculty concert at the Ellison Center, beginning at 7:30 p.m. that includes works by Britten, Darius Milhaud, Schmitt, and the Korngold.
Other highlights include a free concert, “Sunday in the Park,’’ held under a tent on the Duxbury Town Green on July 31 at 7:30 p.m. and featuring faculty and students.
For the complete schedule, see www.duxburymusicfestival.org.
Robert Knox can be reached at email@example.com.